Jupiter's signature Great Red Spot is sort of the Doctor Who of storms: It just won't die - even when it has been proven that it must die. And now, for the first time, some fluid dynamicists have finally hit on some of the secrets to the giant storm's longevity.
"It's the largest, most enduring storm in the solar system," said Philip Marcus of University of California, Berkeley, in a presentation at the meeting of the American Physical Society's fluid dynamics division in Pittsburgh on Monday.
The Red Spot is about 24,000 km across, east to west, 12,000 km from north to south, and a mere 40 km deep. Its wind are roaring around at about 225 miles per hour and this incredible monster has been observed from Earth almost continuously for at least 150 years, he said. But based on all the modeling that's been done to try and explain the Red Spot, it just isn't possible.
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"It should have disappeared in about four years according to the models," Marcus said. "So there's a problem. How do you go from four years to 150 years?"