Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is one of the most iconic features of any planet in our Solar System. The colossal, swirling storm has dominated Jupiter for years, and it’s one of the things we always expect to see when new images of Jupiter are published. Unfortunately, the spot is dying a slow and agonizing death, and it’s possible that it could be entirely gone within our lifetimes.
The storm is running out of steam, and while astronomers are always striving to learn more about the mechanics of how Jupiter’s massive storms form and sustain themselves, it’s clear that the Great Red Spot’s days are numbered. Now, observations by veteran Jupiter observer Anthony Wesley seem to reveal the storm lashing out as it rotates in Jupiter’s atmosphere.
In most images you’ll see of the Great Red Spot from years past, the storm appears to be a bold oval shape with a distinctly round shape. Now, as the ever-shrinking storm begins to die, new blade-like shapes have begun to form along its edges. The long arms stretch out as the storm spins and eventually seem to detach from the main storm and dissipate.
As Space.com reports, NASA’s Juno spacecraft has made similar observations of the Great Red Spot, and NASA scientists are eager to study the storm’s behavior during their next flyby later this year. The blade-like formations, which were once a rare sight, are now happening with increased frequency, possibly signaling that there are some major changes about to take place.
At its current rate of decline, observers believe that the once-massive storm could be completely gone within a couple of decades. That said, nobody has ever observed such a dramatic change before, and we won’t know for sure what the storm’s behavior means until we see what the future holds.