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NASA catches Jupiter storms in the tempestuous act of merging

The Juno spacecraft snapped a view of "something remarkable."

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The two oval storms inside the orange band are merging in this NASA Juno image from late December.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Image processing by Tanya Oleksuik

Jupiter loves to put on a show. The gas giant's swirling atmosphere is constantly changing and rearranging. Most recently, NASA's Juno spacecraft caught sight of two oval storms in the act of merging, an event NASA described as "something remarkable."

Look to the orange band and spot the snowman-shaped storm formation that shows a larger oval connecting with a smaller one. Both of these storms are anticyclones that rotate counter-clockwise. Jupiter's long-lived Great Red Spot is the planet's most famous example of an anticyclonic storm.

NASA has been tracking the bigger of the oval storms for years. It's had quite an appetite for other anticyclones, which might qualify it as a cosmic cannibal. It has grown larger as it merges with others of its kind. 

Juno's timing for this image was immaculate, since storm mergers can happen over just a few days. These two storms had been teasing the spacecraft's camera. "The event interests scientists because the ovals had approached each other months earlier, only to move apart again," NASA said.

Juno's JunoCam camera snapped the image in late December. Citizen scientist Tanya Oleksuik processed the image to enhance the color, and NASA shared the story of the storm merger on Monday. 

Jupiter's dynamic atmospheric formations sometimes resemble familiar Earth shapes. Let's not forget the time when Juno spotted a "dolphin" in the clouds.