Bulletin: Major Storm Threatens Planet
A tremendously intense and extraordinarily large storm continues to develop, threatening the planet with winds approaching 400 mph, about 2.5 times the 156 mph threshold that would make it a Category 5 hurricane. The storm's dramatic evolution began with the unprecedented merger of three smaller storms. Scientists are baffled as to why the storm turned red, and at a loss when it comes to predicting its future behavior.
But, before you panic and hit the grocery and hardware stores for milk, toilet paper, canned goods, plywood, flashlights, etc., take heart -- this storm is on the planet Jupiter. And that's a good thing, since it would be large enough to envelop the entire Earth, subjecting the world's land, oceans, buildings and people to some of the strongest winds ever observed on any planet in the solar system. The "perfect storm" would rival almost anything the most outrageous of sci-fi flicks could come up with.
Keep reading for more on Jupiter's mysterious storm. For a more down-to-earth look at the weather, see our full forecast through the weekend.
An international team of scientists using data from NASA's New Horizons spacecraft, along with two Earth-based telescopes, recently confirmed that wind speeds in what is one of the solar system's newest and largest storms, referred to as Jupiter's Little Red Spot (LRS), are as high as about 384 mph. Compared to storms on Earth, it's taken quite a while for the LRS to get its act together. The initial merger of two smaller white storms, which had been observed since the 1930s, took place in 1998. A third white storm was pulled into the mix in 2000.
In late 2005 the new storm turned red and is continuing to develop, just as Jupiter's more well known Great Red Spot (GRS) appears to be diminishing. The best guess is that the storm's redness is the result of winds sucking up and lifting material from deep below Jupiter's cloud tops to high altitudes. There, ultraviolet radiation from the sun somehow produces the reddish hue.
Why don't astronomers know more about the thermal structure, cloud physics and physical mechanisms responsible for the development and evolution of the GRS and its junior counterpart, the LRS? The most obvious answer is that these phenomena are on a giant gaseous planet over 300 million miles away. But think of it in these terms: We know little more about the inner workings of hurricanes right here on planet Earth.
Meanwhile, if the sci-fi folks aren't impressed with the wrath of the LRS, there's always the massive electrical storm raging on Saturn -- larger than the continental United States -- being observed by NASA's Cassini spacecraft. Order your tickets early -- with lightning bolts1,000 time stronger than lightning on Earth, this one's bound to be next summer's mega blockbuster with crowds lining up days before the movie's debut.
I know I'll be there!
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