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Sci-Tech

You know Jupiter's Great Red Spot, now meet the brown barge

NASA's Juno mission gets a great look at an elusive feature.

If Jupiter is Hollywood, then the Great Red Spot is its top A-list celebrity. Everybody knows about the planet's famous angry red storm, but there's an upstart in town. Say hello to the brown barge.

The elusive brown barge stands out against a lighter backdrop on Jupiter.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Kevin M. Gill

NASA's Juno spacecraft captured a good look at a very different feature found in Jupiter's South Equatorial Belt, a dark belt of clouds, on Sept. 6. The space agency released a color-enhanced view of the area on Thursday. 

The brown barge on display isn't the only one on Jupiter. "Brown barge" is the name given to cyclonic regions usually spotted along the planet's North Equatorial Belt. "They can often be difficult to detect visually because their color blends in with the dark surroundings," says NASA.

In this case, the darkness has receded, leaving the barge to stand out against a lighter background. 

While the Great Red Spot has persisted for hundreds of years, the barge isn't here for the long haul. "Brown barges usually dissipate after the entire cloud belt undergoes an upheaval and reorganizes itself," says NASA.

This particular brown barge will never reach the iconic status of the Great Red Spot, partly because it's just not as charismatic or as permanent. But it does give us a fabulous look at an elusive feature that helps give Jupiter its dramatic, swirling appearance.