Red Spot Reprise: Friday Fractal II

i-b0c54806063d1948685bc5c6d1c52997-repost.jpgi-64443715fe619b2e1ead1a5c03b39882-jfractallocation.jpgSpeaking of unpredictable climate changes, there was always that surprising storm on Jupiter that started brewing last year (and still blows strongly.) I figured now would be as good a time as any to repost the fractal I made in tribute. (This works out especially well, as I didn’t have anything else prepared.)

Pictures released to the media [May 5, 2006] seemed absolutely perfect for the Friday Fractal. A breathtaking example of sensitive dependence on initial conditions, today’s image shows the enigmatic beauty of chaotic patterns. No scientist has yet been able to explain the famous deep red colors in the following scene.

I used a section of a Julia set for today’s fractal. The interacting swirls, created by value repeating within a dynamic system, seemed quite appropriate. Here is what I came up with:


And a similar image, seen in nature:


Jupiter’s Red Spot and upcoming rival, Oval BA, aka, Red Jr. This image was taken recently by the Hubble Space Telescope, and released to the public by NASA yesterday.

The formation of Red Jr. may hold important clues as to the origin of his big brother, the Great Red Spot. i-ea09bf2f65b1e42620c60aa98aaff264-spotpv.gifThe latter is a storm that has been brewing over Jupiter for at least 340 years, since Giovanni Cassini first saw the tempest in his telescope in about 1665. (This was also reported around the same time by inventor Robert Hooke, who deduced the spot was caused by Jupiter’s rotation.) The image at right links to an animation of the Red Spot, showing the intensity of the storm. (And we thought Katrina was bad...this one is about the size of our entire planet, and never seems to quit.)

i-3591eb5342a81f8178fa991aae1ffeed-stormscollide.gifRed Jr. was born of several smaller storms, then whitish, like most spots on Jupiter. This series of images shows how three smaller oval storms collided, forming one larger spot, which later turned red. The original three storms had been around for the last 60 years, performing an intricate waltz-approaching close to one another, and then smoothly parting. In 1998, two of the ovals quit the dance and embraced. Unfortunately, as lovers will do, the meeting took place away from Earthly eyes, as Jupiter passed behind the Sun. When the planet emerged, the two had become one. The two remaining ovals were not as shy. As they began to collide in late 1999, a darker storm, swirling in the opposite direction, came between them. As soon as the darker storm dissipated a year later, the two white ovals merged into one.

In the last five and half years, the oval deepened in hue. On February 27th of this year [2006], Christopher Go in the Philippines noticed the spot had darkened to the same color as the Great Red Spot itself:

"The oval was white in November 2005, it slowly turned brown in December 2005, and red a few weeks ago," reports Go. "Now it is the same color as the Great Red Spot!" (From a NASA announcement, dated March 3, 2006.)

i-9e9cddbf122c9c4920439c4c9ef2ea7a-jupiter.jpgIt should be interesting to watch Red Jr. over the coming months. Will it shrink, will it grow? Will it ram into the Great Red Spot, and create a storm that changes the rest of Jupiter’s atmosphere? All we can do is watch, and learn.

By the way, they say Red Jr. should be visible with any telescope 10 inches or larger, equipped with a CCD camera. Apparently, that’s what Go used. I’m not fortunate enough to have anything stronger than binoculars, so if you’re able, take a glimpse for me.

Update: The New Horizons Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) captured a nice shot of Red Spot Jr. this past February (2007) while en route to Pluto.

Image credits: Jupiter’s spots via the New York Times. True color mosaic of Jupiter, taken by Cassini in 2003, via NASA’s Planetary Photojournal. Black & white animation via the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History. Images of storms colliding on Jupiter via NASA Science News. Fractals created by the author using ChaosPro.

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Really, the Great Red Spot well enough it is visible in 10 inches a telescope. Scales, certainly, impress.

Ted, the scale of these storms is indeed impressive. Do you happen to know if Red Spot Jr. is also visible with a telescope of that size?

Karmen, I think, that Red Spot Jr. should be visible. Unfortunately, Jupiter is now visible only in the morning, it's visibility not so good. But Jupiter now comes nearer to the Earth and it's angular size increases, whether in it's June well enough it will be visible and then I precisely to tell Red Spot Jr. can is visible or not.