Vertical gas flow may be key to massive storm’s longevity
Gases flowing vertically from the top and bottom of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot keep the huge storm swirling, according to a new mathematical simulation. No previous work has explained how the cyclone has survived for the nearly two centuries that astronomers have observed it.
The Great Red Spot is a giant vortex: a mass of swiftly rotating gas. Nearly twice the diameter of Earth, the spot has been roiling since at least 1831, when it was first described. Early telescope observations in the 1660s of a large vortex on Jupiter may even have been views of the Red Spot.
Despite this long observational record, scientists have struggled to explain why the spot did not long ago radiate away its energy and disappear. Astronomers’ best attempts involve the storm gaining energy by swallowing smaller vortices in Jupiter’s jet streams. But observations over the last few decades revealed that the planet does not produce enough of these smaller storms to power the Great