WASHINGTON, Oct. 11 (Xinhua) -- The highest wind
speeds in Jupiter's Little Red Spot have increased and are now equal to those in
its older and larger sibling, the Great Red Spot, according to observations with
NASA's Hubble Space Telescope.
The Little Red Spot's winds, now raging up to approximately
400 miles per hour (about 645 km per hour), signal that the storm
is growing stronger, said the NASA-led team that made the Hubble observations.
The increased intensity of the storm probably caused
it to change color from its original white in late 2005 to red, the findings
published by the team claimed on NASA's website on Wednesday.
"No one has ever seen a storm on Jupiter grow
stronger and turn red before," said Amy Simon-Miller of NASA's Goddard Space
Flight Center. "We hope continued observations of the Little Red Spot will shed
light on the many mysteries of the Great Red Spot, including the composition of
its clouds and the chemistry that gives it its red color."
Although it seems small when viewed against Jupiter's
vast size, the Little Red Spot is actually about the size of Earth, and the
Great Red Spot is around three times Earth's diameter across. Both are giant
storms in Jupiter's southern hemisphere, powered by warm air rising in their
The Little Red Spot is the only survivor among three
white-colored storms that merged together. In the 1940s, the three storms were
seen forming in a band slightly below the Great Red Spot. In 1998, two of the
storms merged into one, which then merged with the third storm in 2000.
In 2005, amateur astronomers noticed that this
merged, larger storm was changing color, and it became known as the Little Red
Spot after becoming noticeably red in early 2006.
Scientists are not sure why the Little Red Spot is
growing stronger. One possibility is a change in size. These storms naturally
fluctuate in size, and their winds spin around their central core of rising air.
If the storm were to become smaller, its spiraling winds would increase the same
way spinning ice skaters turn faster by pulling their arms closer to their
Another possibility is that it's the only survivor.
"The lack of other large storms in the same latitude on Jupiter leaves more
energy to feed the Little Red Spot," said Simon-Miller. Enditem