TIME astronomy

Jupiter’s Trademark ‘Great Red Spot’ Is Shrinking

A NASA handout of the planet Jupiter/s trademark Great Red Spot
NASA/Reuters Jupiter's most distinctive feature - a giant red spot, is seen in this NASA handout photo taken by the Hubble Space Telescope of the planet, April 21, 2014.

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope recently measured the famous crimson storm on the face of Jupiter at less than half the size it was a couple centuries ago (25,500 miles across) and researchers aren't certain of the cause

A storm the size of Earth on the face of Jupiter, known as the Great Red Spot, has been shrinking rapidly over the past two years and is now at its smallest size ever recorded, NASA said Thursday.

The spot was measured at 25,500 miles across its axis back in the late 1800s. It steadily shrank until 2012, when astronomers found that it began shrinking by as much as 580 miles a year.

Now, according to a recent observation by the NASA Hubble Space Telescope, the storm is “only” about 10,250 miles across (that’s still wider than Earth’s diameter).

Scientists still aren’t sure exactly why the storm is changing, though a NASA team is looking into whether small eddies that appear to converge with the storm may be altering its size.

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