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Jupiter's Great Red Spot Shrinking Before Our Eyes

Fri, 05/16/2014 - 3:16pm
Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer

This composite image, taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, shows the planet Jupiter and the The Great Red SpotWASHINGTON (AP) — Jupiter's Great Red Spot seems to be on a cosmic diet, shrinking rapidly before our eyes.

Astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope calculate that the spot, a giant long-lasting storm, is narrowing by about 580 miles a year, much faster than before.

In the late 1800s the red spot was an oval 25,500 miles wide. Now it's a circle that's 10,250 miles across.

Michael Wong, a scientist at the University of California, Berkeley, said the spot is a mystery. Astronomers don't know why it's red or shrinking, or what will happen next. If this pace continues, in 17 years the spot could be gone. Or it could stop at a smaller size.

Wong said one theory is the spot eats smaller storms, and that it is consuming fewer of them.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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