The storm is so big and turbulent, that scientisits are finding it creates sound waves that travel hundreds of miles up and actually heats the planet’s upper atmosphere.
Researchers from Boston University’s Center for Space Physics smapped the planet’s temperatures well above the cloud tops using observations from Earth. By observing non-visible infrared light hundreds of miles above the gas giant, the scientists found temperatures to be much higher in certain latitudes and longitudes in Jupiter’s southern hemisphere, where the spot is located.
“The Great Red Spot is a terrific source of energy to heat the upper atmosphere at Jupiter, but we had no prior evidence of its actual effects upon observed temperatures at high altitudes,” said Luke Moore, co-author of the BU study, published in the journal Nature.
The study helps explain what planetary scientists had dubbed an “energy crisis” for gas giants like Jupiter: temperatures in their upper atmospheres soar much higher than can be explained by solar energy.
If the mysterious heat were generated by local sources, like Jupiter’s Red Spot, then the conundrum would be solved – and these measurements are the first direct evidence of any such activity.
The high temperatures far above Jupiter’s visible disk is not a unique aspect of our solar system. The same also occurs on Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.
NASA’s Juno spacecraft, which recently arrived in Jupiter’s orbit, will have several opportunities during its 20-month mission to observe the Great Red Spot and the turbulent region surrounding it.