By Charles Q. Choi
The mystery of why Jupiter's Great Red Spot did not vanish centuries ago may now be solved, and the findings could help reveal more clues about the vortices in Earth's oceans and the nurseries of stars and planets, researchers say.
The Great Red Spot is the most noticeable feature on Jupiter's surface — a storm about 12,400 miles (20,000 kilometers) long and 7,500 miles (12,000 km) wide, about two to three times larger than Earth. Winds at its oval edges can reach up to 425 mph (680 km/h). This giant storm was first recorded in 1831 but may have first been discovered in 1665.
"Based on current theories, the Great Red Spot should have disappeared after several decades," researcher Pedram Hassanzadeh, a geophysical fluid dynamicist at Harvard University,said in a statement. "Instead, it has been there for hundreds of years."
Vortices like the Great Red Spot can dissipate because of many factors. For instance, waves and turbulence in and around the storm sap its winds of energy. It also loses energy by radiating heat. Moreover, the Great Red Spot rests between two powerful jet streams in Jupiter's atmosphere that flow in opposite directions and may slow down its spinning. . . .
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