The spot, discovered in 2020 by amateur astronomer Clyde Foster using his own 14-inch telescope, first appeared as an oval-shaped feature near the planet’s famous “Great Red Spot.” Two days after that discovery, NASA took an up-close look at the newfound feature with the Jupiter-orbiting Juno. Juno team members determined that the feature was “a plume of cloud material erupting above the top layers of the Jovian atmosphere,” NASA said in a statement.
But Juno swung back around to view the spot in April 2021 and found that it looks … different.
In the new photo of the spot snapped by Juno, that difference is immediately apparent. In the image taken on June 2, 2020, there is a clear oval-shaped feature. But in the photo taken on April 15, 2021 during the craft’s 33rd close pass over Jupiter’s clouds, that oval looks more like a swirling, chaotic blob. The 2020 image was taken from about 28,000 miles (45,000 kilometers) from the top of Jupiter’s clouds while the 2021 image was captured from about 16,800 miles (27,000 km) up, NASA officials said.
In the new image, the spot had drifted farther away from the Great Red Spot NASA said the statement.
Now, features like this occasionally pop up in this region of Jupiter’s dynamic atmosphere, then quickly dissipate. But the observations from Juno’s JunoCam instrument show that “Clyde’s Spot” is still here after almost a year. This impressive staying power pegs the recently discovered spot as relatively unique compared to other atmospheric features on Jupiter, NASA officials said. (The Great Red Spot is also long-lived, of course; astronomers have been observing it for several centuries.)
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