Probably the most distinctive characteristic of Jupiter is the Great Red Spot, a gigantic storm that was first observed in its atmosphere over 400 years ago. Scientists have struggled to understand why the Red Spot—about two to three times the size of Earth—has persisted for so long. But recent work from Philip Marcus, professor of mechanical engineering, in collaboration with Pedram Hassanzadeh (Ph.D.’13 ME), may explain the Red Spot’s longevity. The team built a high-resolution, fully three-dimensional model and learned that vertical flows transport hot and cold gases to the storm’s center, helping restore its energy. In addition, the model predicted a radial flow that draws in winds from high speed jet streams; the vortex may absorb some smaller vortices as well. Their work might also explain why oceanic vortices here on Earth can endure for years, as well as identify the role vertical flows play in the formation of stars and planets.
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