According to a new explanation of old mysteries, Jupiter is undergoing major climate change and could lose many of its large spots over the next seven years, only to make way for the creation of fresh spots in a decades-long cycle.
While the analysis remains to be proven, it is seen by other researchers as interesting and, importantly, testable even with large backyard telescopes.
Philip Marcus, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley who came up with the idea is an expert in fluid and atmospheric dynamics. He has never seen Jupiter through a telescope. But his computer modeling, reported in the April 22 issue of the journal Nature, accounts for previously noted disappearances of large white spots, and it makes predictions that can easily be verified or refuted, report usatoday.com
The planet's atmosphere contains about 80 swirling vortices which are similar to long-lived hurricanes.
The largest, the Great Red Spot - spanning 20 000 kilometres and large enough to swallow the Earth two or three times over - was first observed in 1665.
Scientists believe its location near the planet's equator has kept it stable. But two of three white ovals, discovered in the 1930s, vanished abruptly between 1997 and 2000.
A new computer simulation now suggests that the disappearances are merely part of a recurring climate cycle. Over the next 10 years, Jupiter is predicted to lose most of its "spots", inform iol.co.za
According to scotsman.com a new computer simulation now suggests that the disappearances are merely part of a recurring, 70-year climate cycle on Jupiter.
Over the next ten years, the planet is predicted to lose most of its spots. This could cause a temperature increase of 10C around the equator and similar cooling at the poles, leading to the creation of new vortices.
The new spots will then take another 60 years or so to break down, according to the research, which is published in the journal Nature.
Professor Philip Marcus, of the university’s department of mechanical engineering, who led the study, cautioned against applying the same model to the Earth’s climate, which he said is influenced by many different factors.
However, he added: "Studying other worlds helps us better understand our own, even if they are not directly analogous."