TWSB: You Missed a (Big) Spot
So we all know the giant red spot on the giant, fast-rotating planet, right?
Of course we do! But do we know why it’s red?
For a long time, the main theory has been that the spot is red because the giant storm creating it is churning up reddish chemicals from beneath Jupiter’s clouds and bringing them to the surface for us to see.
But a new theory states that the redness of the massive swirling isn’t due to chemicals from beneath the clouds but rather due to chemical reactions with sunlight. Work by Kevin Bains, Bob Carlson, and Tom Momary, scientists based at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, state that based on data collected from both laboratory experiments and Cassini’s flyby of the planet in 2000, they suspect that the red tint is due to the effects of ultraviolet light on ammonia and acetylene, the gases in the uppermost portion of the storm.
Baines states that if this is the case, then the spot is probably pretty dull in color beneath its uppermost clouds. According to the older theory, if the reddish chemicals are indeed coming from beneath the clouds, then the spot would be red all the way through. Baines and the others are currently doing more testing/simulations to try to gain evidence about what color lies beneath the red.
As for why the great red spot is, well, the only great red spot on the planet, Baines suggests it’s because it’s a very tall storm—much taller than any other—and thus is more likely to get “sunburnt.”