Pepperoni in a spoon? This infrared-enhanced photo taken on May 19 shows that the swirl connecting the Great Red Spot to the South Equatorial Belt (dark belt above and left of the GRS) contains red material pulled from the Spot. Anthony Wesley
Weird things are happening around Jupiter’s Great Red Spot (GRS). The iconic red hurricane that’s been swirling around in the Jovian atmosphere for at least 350 years may be flaking away. Over the past week, winds and gases in the South Equatorial Belt (SEB) — one of two prominent, dark cloud belts striping the planet’s atmosphere — are blowing past the Spot, peeling off pieces about once a week. Some of them span up to 6,200 miles (10,000 km) across.
Jupiter on April 21, 2014 taken by the Hubble Space Telescope before this month’s “flaky” activity. NASA / ESA
Astronomers have seen “flakes” slough off the GRS before, but they’ve become more frequent of late. At the same time, the Spot has been steadily shrinking due to other factors. Currently 1.3 times the diameter of Earth, a century ago it was more than three times as wide. Winds and clouds are always blowing past the Red Spot, but ...