Great Cold Spot anomaly discovered on Jupiter is created by the aurora

View Jupiter’s family of moons after dark this week

Jupiter's iconic Great Red Spot gets all the attention, but now, astronomers are starting to take notice of its cooler cousin, the aptly named Great Cold Spot, Science News reports.

The "Great Cold Spot" has been observed as a localized dark spot, up to 24,000 kilometers in longitude and 12,000 kilometers in latitude.

And unlike the giant planet's familiar Great Red Spot, this newly discovered weather system is continually changing in shape and size: it's formed by the energy from Jupiter's polar auroras.

The team used the Very Large Telescope in Chile to map the temperature and density of the planet's atmosphere. Comparing the data with observations from the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility in Hawaii revealed that the dark mark had actually been seen in the same location for more than 15 years.

In a statement, the researchers said that the spot is likely formed as a byproduct of Jupiter's fantastic auroras, especially considering that it always reforms in a way that made them suspect it might be as old as the auroras themselves. Recently, a Great Cold Spot was discovered - nearly as large as the Great Red.

The weather feature has likely existed for thousands of years, but previous observations of the planet have been limited by spatial resolution. But despite this variability, it is seen again fifteen years later, showing it must reform again and again.

Tom Stallard, a planetary astronomer at the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom, stated that this finding represents the first time when a weather system in the upper atmosphere of Jupiter has been analyzed, excluding the bright aurorae of the gas giant. Besides this cool surprise, Stallard and his colleagues observed hints of other features potentially lurking in Jupiter's upper atmosphere.

The Great Cold Spot happens to be more active and reactive than the Great Red Spot. Scientists dubbed the feature the Great Cold Spot.

Stallard told Gizmodo that because Jupiter receives its particles from a volcanic moon, it means that its Aurora has a larger source of particulate matter and consequently it results in a much brighter aurora than Earth's.

This creates a region of cooling in the thermosphere, the boundary layer between the underlying atmosphere and the vacuum of space. Unlike the Great Red Spot, this new spot is found high up in the planet's thermosphere.

The researchers found that there is an area of darkness among the hot environment of the planet's upper atmosphere.



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