When whirls collide on Jupiter

UK astronomers are watching as the two biggest storms in the solar system collide on Jupiter.

The giant planet’s famous Great Red Spot is being buffeted by a rival hurricane that blew up just six years ago. Winds in both storms are swirling at an incredible 350mph.

The older spot, which looks like a huge eye in Jupiter’s atmosphere, is twice as wide as the Earth and has been raging for hundreds of years. The smaller storm is half its size but could still swallow up the Earth. It changed its colour from white to red in March and has since been racing around Jupiter to meet its older cousin.

Pictures of the storms have been taken by the Hubble space telescope and major observatories on Earth including Gemini on Hawaii, which produced the image here. (The spots appear white as it was taken in the infrared).

But the collision is also visible in the telescopes of backyard stargazers watching Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system and as big as 1,321 Earths.
Among them is retired engineer Dave Tyler, 64, of Flackwell Heath, Bucks, who has been taking CCD photos of the storms as they converge.

He said today: “I have been watching the approach with great interest. The question is, will it brush past quietly, or will it react or even combine with the bigger spot?”

Astronomers believe the spot changed colour when it became strong enough to dredge up reddish material from deeper in Jupiter’s atmosphere.

Paul Sutherland

Paul Sutherland

I have been a professional journalist for nearly 40 years. I write regularly for science magazines including BBC Sky at Night magazine, BBC Focus, Astronomy Now and Popular Astronomy. I have also authored three books on astronomy and contributed to others.
Paul Sutherland

Get free Skymania news updates by email

Sign up for alerts to our latest reports. No spam ever - we promise!


Paul Sutherland

I have been a professional journalist for nearly 40 years. I write regularly for science magazines including BBC Sky at Night magazine, BBC Focus, Astronomy Now and Popular Astronomy. I have also authored three books on astronomy and contributed to others.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *