Jupiter’s Great Red Spot Not So Great Anymore

The Great Red Spot, a huge storm on Jupiter, has been shrinking rapidly and no one is sure why.

  • Great red spot

    Image 1 of 2

    Photo: Hubble Space Telescope/NASA

    Jupiters Great Red Spot has been shrinking rapidly in the past few years.

  • Observatory

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    Photo: Dan Goldblatt/WFIU News

    The Link Observatory sits high on a ridge in rural Morgan County.

The Great Red Spot on Jupiter is easy to see in part because it’s so big it can fit three Earths inside of it.

The spot is actually a huge red storm that has been raging for at least 400 years.

It’s consistently been shrinking but lately the rate at which it’s shrinking has dramatically increased. The spot is decreasing in size 580 miles per year, which is about the distance from Chicago to Washington D.C.

Senior astronomer and amateur scientist at the Link Observatory in Martinsville John Shepherd says the shrinking spot is a mystery.

“Looking at the results of the images over the past, I think they pushed out about 3 images that showed how the Great Red Spot was actually decreasing in size,” Shepherd says. “So something’s taking away the energy that’s powering it.”

In 2012, amateur astronomers began noticing the spot shrinking faster than before.

Shepherd says amateur scientists play a huge role in astronomical discoveries. He says while there are many people doing research at places like NASA, there aren’t enough people there to look at everything in the sky.

If the Great Red Spot continues to shrink at the same rate, it will become a circle, rather than its current oval shape, by 2040.

Casey Kuhn

Casey Kuhn is a reporter working for WFIU/WTIU news. Originally from Cincinnati, she recently graduated from Indiana University with a B.A. in journalism. Her main interests are dogs, baseball, and food. Follow her online at @CaseyAtTheDesk.

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