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Jupiter's Gigantic Great Red Spot Storm System May Be Starting To Unravel

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An image of Jupiter's Great Red Spot captured by NASA's Juno spacecraft. Amateur astronomers reported large sections, some of which bigger than 10,000 kilometers, detach from the giant storm every week.   ( NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/ Gerald Eichstädt /Seán Doran )

Jupiter's Great Red Spot is shrinking. Amateur astronomers from around the world report observing chunks of the giant anti-cyclone peel away.

Anthony Wesley from Australia has taken a photograph of a plume of gas stretching more than 10,000 kilometers long, detach from the Great Red Spot on May 19. He shared that large sections are being peeled away every week or so from the largest storm in the solar system.

Amateur Astronomers Witness Jupiter's Great Red Spot Unravel

"Each streamer appears to disconnect from the Great Red Spot and dissipate," shared Wesley. "Then, after about a week, a new streamer forms and the process repeats. You have to be lucky to catch it happening. Jupiter spins on its axis every 10 hours and the GRS is not always visible."

This is not the first time that streamers of gas have been spotted leaving the Great Red Spot. In May 2017, the Gemini North Adaptive optics telescope noticed a "curious hook-like cloud feature" on the western side of the persistent storm.

According to Sky and Telescope, flaking events in Jupiter's prominent feature used to be rare occurrences. In recent years, they happened more frequently and at a much larger scale.

Amateur astronomers around the world continue to make observations of Jupiter and its Great Red Spot. The gas giant is approaching Earth for a close encounter in June 2019, making it the perfect time for anyone who has a telescope to watch out for streamers.

The Great Red Spot Shrinking

NASA's Juno is also keeping an eye on Jupiter's great storm. Space reported that images from the 17th and 18th observational flybys of the spacecraft show flaky formations.

The Great Red Spot has been raging for at least 350 years. When scientists first discovered and observed the giant storm in the 1800s, it was estimated to be four times larger than the Earth. However, when Voyager flew by in 1979, the storm has shrunk into twice the size of the Earth. In present times, it is down to just about the size of the Earth.

This has led some scientists to wonder if the end is nigh for Jupiter's Great Red Spot. Wesley added that it might be too early to say if the storm is finally dissipating after hundreds of years or if the flaking events are temporary.

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