Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Heidi from Knoxville . Heidi Wonders, “Why is there a red spot on Jupiter?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Heidi!
Do you enjoy a good thunderstorm? While rain can end baseball games and postpone outside events, it brings needed nourishment to plants everywhere. It can also be fun to cuddle up inside under a blanket to watch a movie or take a nap while the thunder booms and the rain beats a lullaby on the roof.
Sometimes, though, storms take a turn for the worse and evolve into dangerous beasts, such as tornadoes and hurricanes. For those who have ever experienced the deadly power of one of these ferocious storms, Mother Nature can seem quite cruel. Every year places all over Earth fall prey to the wicked weather that can exist on this planet we call home.
While human beings will always strive to explore the rest of the solar system, the weather on other planets can present a significant obstacle to future travel plans. If you think the weather on Earth can be bad at times, just wait until you learn what the weather on other planets has in store for you.
For example, many people hope that one day we can send a manned mission to Mars. Would you want to go? Maybe not when you see the weather forecast! Mars doesn't have much of an atmosphere. It's mostly a dry, rocky desert. What winds there are tend to kick up vicious dust storms that can engulf the entire planet and last for weeks.
The huge gas giants, Jupiter and Saturn, have even more awe-inspiring storms. The first astronomers dating back to the time of Galileo noticed a large red spot on Jupiter's surface. That spot, now known as the Great Red Spot, is actually a hurricane-like storm twice as large as Earth…and it's been raging for hundreds of years!
Saturn has a spot of its own now, too. Called the Great White Spot, it's a thunderstorm that began within the last couple of years and is still going strong. Scientists estimate the storm is over 6,200 miles wide! By way of comparison, the largest hurricanes on Earth might approach 600 miles in width.
Instead of heading out to Jupiter and Saturn, what if we ventured closer to the Sun? Venus is similar to Earth in shape and size. Unfortunately, that's where the similarities end. Its dense atmosphere features blazing temperatures of nearly 900º F year-round. That dense atmosphere also happens to be made of carbon dioxide clouds, which rain down sulfuric acid.
Another celestial body similar to Earth in terms of cloud cover and terrain is Titan, Saturn's largest moon. Unlike Earth, though, Titan's clouds are made of methane rather than water. Similar to Earth's water cycle, Titan features methane rains as part of a regular cycle.
Methane also features prominently in the weather on Neptune. Neptune is so far away from the Sun, though, that the methane there is frozen in clouds that get blown around the planet by winds up to 1,200 miles per hour. That's nearly five times the fastest winds to ever blast Earth during a hurricane.