Image from nasa.gov
A stunning event captured by NASA’s Hubble Telescope shows a big black eye staring back from Jupiter’s Great Red Spot storm. In reality, it is shadow play on a planetary scale.
The image was captured by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope as it tracked changes in Jupiter’s immense Great Red Spot storm – a storm that has been raging for over 300 years. The black eye is caused by the shadow of the Jovian moon, Ganymede, sweeping across the center of the storm.
“For a moment, Jupiter stared back at Hubble like a one-eyed giant Cyclops,” a NASA spokesman told the Daily Express.
The Great Red Spot, the largest known vortex in the Solar System at 10,000 miles wide, is a persistent anti-cyclonic storm just south of Jupiter’s equator. It has been raging for between 300 and 400 years, blowing winds at 345 miles an hour – speeds that are beyond comparison with even an Earthly Category 5 hurricane, which can only maximize up to 200 miles.
Astronomers are only beginning to fully understand the complexity of Jupiter, a gas giant which has a mass 317 times bigger than Earth. The planet has 62 moons – including four large ones called the Galilean moons, first discovered by Galileo Galilei in 1610. Ganymede is the largest of these moons.
Jupiter’s atmosphere is made up of mostly hydrogen and helium gas, just like the sun. The planet’s surface is covered in thick red, brown, yellow, and white clouds, and spins faster than any other planet, with a day only about 10 hours long.
What scientists also know is that it has an extremely powerful magnetic field. Deep under its clouds is a huge ocean of liquid metallic hydrogen, and as the planet spins, the liquid metal ocean rotates and powers the metallic field, according to NASA.
Like Earth, Jupiter experiences aurora borealis but they are hundreds of times more energetic – and they never stop.
“We see them every time we look,” said Randy Gladstone of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas. “Jupiter has auroras bigger than our entire planet.”
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