Jovian storms of surpassing beauty

In April, a visible-light image (left) taken by the Hubble Space Telescope showed that a new giant storm (red arrows) in Jupiter’s southern hemisphere was about 62,000 kilometers away from the planet’s centuries-old Great Red Spot storm (white arrows).

(left) I. de Pater, P. Marcus, et al., NASA; (right) T. Rector, C. Trujillo, Gemini ALTAIR AO team

A near-infrared image (right) taken July 13 at the Gemini North Observatory atop Hawaii’s Mauna Kea reveals that the oval storms are now separated by only 3,000 km, as the smaller, faster-moving spot brushes past the larger one. The Great Red Spot is more than twice the width of Earth, while the smaller Jovian hurricane, nicknamed Red Junior, has about the same width as Earth. The smaller spot formed a few years ago, when three storms merged. Moving in opposite directions, the two spots are expected to pass countless times as they travel around Jupiter’s sphere. Although the spots appear white in the infrared image, they’re tinged red in visible light.

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