8. Jupiter's Giant Red Spot

8. Jupiter's Giant Red Spot

M. Wong and I. de Pater (University of California, Berkeley)

http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/archive/releases/2008/23/image/a/


Jupiter's most outstanding surface feature is the Great Red Spot, a swirling mass of gas resembling a hurricane. The widest diameter of the spot is about three times that of Earth. The color of the spot usually varies from brick-red to slightly brown. Rarely, the spot fades entirely. Its color may be due to small amounts of sulfur and phosphorus in the ammonia crystals.
The atmosphere of Jupiter is composed of about 86 percent hydrogen, 14 percent helium, and tiny amounts of methane, ammonia, phosphine, water, acetylene, ethane, germanium, and carbon monoxide. Scientists have calculated these amounts from measurements taken with telescopes and other instruments on Earth and aboard spacecraft. The highest white clouds in the zones are made of crystals of frozen ammonia. Darker, lower clouds of other chemicals occur in the belts. Astronomers had expected to detect water clouds about 70 kilometers (44 miles) below the ammonia clouds. However, none have been discovered at any level.
In August, 2011, Project Juno will launch and reach Jupiter in July, 2016. Juno's principal goal is to understand the origin and evolution of Jupiter. Project Juno will also be looking for water in Jupiter's atmosphere.