Enlarge / This image shows how the Great Cold Spot (the darker, oval feature) changes dramatically in shape and size on different days. (credit: Tom Stallard)
Astronomers have been characterizing Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, a brilliant, swirling storm located just south of the planet’s equator, for the better part of three centuries. Now, scientists say they have found another great spot on Jupiter at higher latitudes.
The “Great Cold Spot” is defined by its temperature relative to the surrounding upper atmosphere on the planet.

Temperatures in Jupiter’s upper atmosphere range from about 700 to 1,000 Kelvin, and the relatively well-defined cold area is about 200 Kelvin cooler. Measuring about 24,000 kilometers in longitude and 12,000 kilometers in latitude, the cold spot is nearly as large as the more famous red spot.
So what has caused it? Planetary scientists aren’t yet sure, as much of Jupiter’s atmosphere remains a mystery. “The detection of a localized region of cooling within the upper atmosphere is unexpected,” the authors of a new study, published in Geophysical Research Letters, reported this week. Previous observations have been limited in their spatial resolution, especially at higher latitudes, and as a result scientists had thought variations in temperature would be more smoothed out.
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