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Jupiter’s second spot is growing and changing and looking real weird

Jupiter’s most famous feature is its Great Red Spot, the largest storm in the solar system. But this spot was recently discovered to have a smaller sibling, created by a plume of cloud high in the atmosphere. Now, a new image of this second spot shows it’s getting stranger.

The spot was identified last year by an amateur astronomer called Clyde Foster and has been unofficially named “Clyde’s Spot” in his honor. Days after the discovery, the Juno spacecraft passed over the region and was able to capture an image of the new baby spot. It is thought to be a cloud of material that reaches up through the upper layers of the atmosphere.

Earlier this year Juno has passed by the spot and once again captured it, 10 months after the first image was taken. Whereas before it had been a tight whirl, now the spot is a chaotic-looking swirl. It’s getting bigger, at three times as wide as it used to be. And it’s on the move as well — it’s now further away from the Great Red Spot than it was.

NASA released a comparison of the two images, allowing you to see how Clyde’s Spot has changed:

Comparison of two images of Clyde’s Spot taken by Juno in June 2020 and April 2021 Image data: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS Image processing by Kevin M. Gill © CC BY

NASA writes, “Many features in Jupiter’s highly dynamic atmosphere are short-lived, but the April 2021 observation from the JunoCam instrument (lower image) revealed that nearly one year after its discovery, the remnant of Clyde’s Spot had not only drifted away from the Great Red Spot but had also developed into a complex structure that scientists call a folded filamentary region. This region is twice as big in latitude and three times as big in longitude as the original spot, and has the potential to persist for an extended period of time.”

The upper image from last year was taken from a height of around 28,000 miles (45,000 kilometers) from the planet’s cloud tops, while the more recent image was taken from around 16,800 miles (27,000 kilometers) from the cloud tops.

Appropriately enough for a discovery made by an amateur astronomer, both Juno images were processed by another citizen scientist, Kevin M. Gill. Gill previously told Digital Trends about how he processes Juno images and how people at home can start processing Juno data as well.

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