Podcaster: Richard Drumm

Title: Space Scoop: The Mystery of the Shrinking Storm

Organization: 365 Days Of Astronomy

Link : ;

Description: Space scoop, news for children. 

The gas giant planet Jupiter is home to the famous Great Red Spot. This giant storm is a mystery to scientists and it’s getting smaller.

Bio: Richard Drumm is President of the Charlottesville Astronomical Society and President of 3D – Drumm Digital Design, a video production company with clients such as Kodak, Xerox and GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceuticals. He was an observer with the UVa Parallax Program at McCormick Observatory in 1981 & 1982. He has found that his greatest passion in life is public outreach astronomy and he pursues it at every opportunity.

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This is the 365 Days of Astronomy Podcast. Today we bring you a new episode in our Space Scoop series. This show is produced in collaboration with Universe Awareness, a program that strives to inspire every child with our wonderful cosmos.

The Mystery of the Shrinking Storm

Various regions around the world have experienced extreme weather conditions this year, but nothing quite as extreme as the biggest storm in the Solar System. 

The gas giant planet Jupiter is home to the famous Great Red Spot. This giant storm is a mystery to scientists and it’s getting smaller.

Jupiter is over 1,300 times the volume of Earth! Its diameter, 88,000 miles, is over 11 times the size of Earth’s diameter. The giant planet has two and a half times more mass than all the rest of the planets in our Solar System combined. 

This is a big honking planet!

It is also full of many mysteries.

Jupiter is made up of gasses: hydrogen and helium, with very tiny amounts of methane, ammonia, hydrogen sulfide and even a trace of water vapor.

There are two broad, relatively dark, cloud belts that can even be seen with a small telescope. 

I’ve shown the planet to guests at Big Meadows in the Shenandoah National Park. I’ve pointed out to them the equatorial belts in the atmosphere and its 4 Galilean Moons, discovered by Galileo Galilei in December, 1609 and January, 1610.

Currently there’s a NASA spacecraft named Juno orbiting the planet. It has returned a treasure trove of data for astronomers & physicists. 

They’ll be kept busy studying all of this for years to come. It has also returned some spectacular time-lapse videos of it’s close approaches to the planet. You can search for them on YouTube. Breath taking!

Jupiter has also been examined in great detail by telescopes like the Hubble Space Telescope. 

The Hubble has captured a new image of Jupiter in late June this year that shows us the beauty and majesty of the Great Red Spot: a giant storm of red clouds that’s twice the size of the Earth. 

The Great Red Spot’s storm has been raging for over 150 years. The Hubble has watched the storm for many years and has noticed that it’s getting smaller. 

In fact, the storm’s width is decreasing by just under 1,000 kilometers each year – that’s over twice as long as the Grand Canyon! Astronomers don’t understand why this is happening, or even why the spot’s red!

Jupiter is also home to other storms that can be seen as brown and white ovals or circles. These storms can last for just a few hours or as long as a few hundred years. 

The biggest of these storms is called oval BA. It even turned red like the Great Red Spot a few years ago.

My friend Phil Plait, also known as the Bad Astronomer, amused us all by proclaiming this oval to be the Bad Astronomy spot. You know, BA, Bad Astronomy… Yeah.

His book “Bad Astronomy” and his blog on SYFY Wire were originally dedicated to pointing out examples of bad astronomy in TV shows and movies, thus the name. 

He’s a great astronomer, not a bad one! 

The blog nowadays highlights current astronomy news and I highly recommend you read it frequently.

Jupiter’s winds can reach speeds of up to 650 kilometers per hour – over three times faster than the speed of a tornado’s winds!

We don’t know if the Great Red Spot will shrink away to nothingness or continue for hundreds of years more. 

Stay, uh, tuned, and we’ll keep you up-to-date with all the latest news!

Hey Here’s A Cool Fact:

The Juno spacecraft carries a plaque dedicated to Galileo Galilei. The plaque was provided by the Italian Space Agency. 

The plaque has a portrait of Galileo and has an image of some text in Galileo’s own handwriting, written in January 1610, while observing what would later come to be known as the Galilean moons. 

The text partly translates to this:

…it is evident that around Jupiter there are three moving stars invisible till this time to everyone.

Later Galileo discovered a 4th moon, which had been unnoticed earlier because it was farther from the planet in its orbit. This discovery proved once and for all that things in space can orbit other things. 

The so-called crystalline spheres proposed by Plato, Aristotle & Ptolemy were not needed at all to explain what we observe.

End of podcast:

365 Days of Astronomy
The 365 Days of Astronomy Podcast is produced by Planetary Science Institute. Audio post-production by Richard Drumm. Bandwidth donated by and wizzard media. You may reproduce and distribute this audio for non-commercial purposes. Please consider supporting the podcast with a few dollars (or Euros!). Visit us on the web at or email us at This year we will celebrates the Year of Everyday Astronomers as we embrace Amateur Astronomer contributions and the importance of citizen science. Join us and share your story. Until tomorrow! Goodbye!

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