Great Red Spot consumes smaller storm

A sequence of images from the Hubble Space Telescope show the recent close encounter of 3 red storms on the planet Jupiter. Whilst the Great Red Spot (GRS) and Red Spot Jr. (otherwise known as Oval BA, to the south of GRS), appear to have remained intact, a smaller cousin, known as Baby Red Spot, seems to have been eaten up by GRS. The scary fact is that Baby Red was roughly the same size as Earth.

Jupiter Spots
A series of HST images, showing a recent encounter of Jupiter's red spots.
Credit: NASA/HST

Red spots are massive storm systems. The largest one (GRS) has been raging on the surface of Jupiter since telescopes first studied it some 350 years ago. It is the largest hurricane known in the solar system. The smaller storm that remains, Red Spot Jr., is roughly half the size of its famous counterpart, but has winds just as strong. It formed between 1998 and 2000 from the merger of three long-lived white ovals (smaller storms), and in February 2006 astronomers noticed that it had turned red.

Some astronomers think that the consumption of Baby Red shows how GRS has managed to survive for so long, through "stealing" the energy from the many smaller storms it has devoured over the centuries. Of course it is only recently that we have had powerful enough telescopes to see this PacMan behaviour in progress.

For more information about NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, click here.