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Program Wildest Weather in the Solar System

  • 1. Investigate the movements of cyclones and anticyclones.
    Extreme weather on Earth occurs where there is low pressure in the atmosphere. Look at the diagram Cyclone and Anticyclone. Gather your fingertips and thumb together, point them toward the ceiling, and spread your fingertips and thumb outward as you move your hand upward. You’re mimicking the movement of a cyclone, a low-pressure system where air is forced up through the center of the storm and directed toward the sky. Cyclones are associated with rain-making conditions. An anticyclone is the opposite. It is a high-pressure system where air is forced downward through the center of the storm toward the surface of the planet. Mimic the movement of an anticyclone by holding your hand palm down toward the floor and slowly gathering your fingertips and thumb together and moving your hand toward the floor. Anticyclones do not usually produce precipitation. Winds in an anticyclone blow clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and counterclockwise in the Southern Hemisphere.

    2. Explore a Jupiter interactive.
    Explore the provided Jupiter interactive. How large is Jupiter’s Great Red Spot? This one storm is as large as three Earths! How long does it take the storm to make a full rotation? It takes about 6 days. How long has the storm been going on? This storm has been raging for at least 400 years. Is Jupiter's Great Red Spot in the Northern or Southern Hemisphere? The storm is in the Southern Hemisphere. Do you think it is a cyclone or an anticyclone? It’s an anticyclone.

    3. Get ready for the hands-on activity.
    You will use everyday materials to create a model of the Great Red Spot storm on Jupiter. Gather the materials needed, including 400 milliliters (13.5 fluid ounces) of water and 10 milliliters (0.34 ounces) of cornstarch.

    4. Create a model of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot.
    Pour water into the pie tin. Then add the cornstarch and a few drops of food coloring. Stir until clumps have disappeared. Allow the cornstarch to settle at the bottom of the pie tin. Then run the stirrer along the bottom of the pan. The stirrer represents the Great Red Spot. The cornstarch and water represent Jupiter's surface. What do you notice as you drag the stirrer across the bottom of the pan? You should see hurricane-like eddies form on either side of the stirrer. How does that relate to how the Great Red Spot looks on Jupiter? It should look very similar. As the Great Red Spot moves across Jupiter, it creates smaller eddies. The action of dragging the stirrer across the bottom of the pie tin models the way the Great Red Spot moves across Jupiter.

    5. Create a diagram to scale.
    Sketch a diagram to represent Earth, Jupiter, and the Giant Red Spot proportionally. Label each, and create a key to identify the scale you used. Share your diagram with family members and discuss any questions they have about Jupiter’s Great Red Spot. Together, cut out the scale drawings and figure out how many Earths fits across Jupiter and how many Earths fit across the Great Red Spot.

    Quiz Yourself!

    1. What type of storm is Jupiter's Great Red Spot?

      Jupiter's Great Red Spot is an anticyclone.

  • Materials You Provide

    • 8-inch or 9-inch pie tins
    • Cornstarch
    • Drawing paper
    • Food coloring
    • Glass pie plate
    • Meter sticks or rulers
    • Pencils
    • Pens
    • Scissors
    • Spoons or stirrers
    • Water

    Required Technology

    • Internet Access: Required
    • Tech Setup: 1 computer per classroom, Projector, Speakers
    • Plug-Ins: Flash
  • Background Information

    Jupiter is the largest planet in our solar system and the fifth planet from the sun. It is a giant gas planet, made up mostly of hydrogen and helium. One of Jupiter's most noticeable features is the Great Red Spot, a giant, oval-shaped anticyclonic storm that has been raging for centuries and is believed to be the most powerful storm in our solar system. High-pressure winds in an anticyclone blow clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and counterclockwise in the Southern Hemisphere. An anticyclone is the opposite of a cyclone, or low-pressure system. Scientists have recently observed a new Red Spot, officially named Oval BA but nicknamed Red Jr., and are tracking its progress along Jupiter's surface.


    Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    anticyclone Noun

    large weather system where air spins around a center of high pressure. Anticyclones spin clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and counterclockwise in the Southern Hemisphere.

    atmosphere Noun

    layers of gases surrounding a planet or other celestial body.

    Encyclopedic Entry: atmosphere
    atmospheric pressure Noun

    force per unit area exerted by the mass of the atmosphere as gravity pulls it to Earth.

    Encyclopedic Entry: atmospheric pressure
    cyclone Noun

    weather system that rotates around a center of low pressure and includes thunderstorms and rain. Usually, hurricanes refer to cyclones that form over the Atlantic Ocean.

    diameter Noun

    width of a circle.

    extreme weather Noun

    rare and severe events in the Earth's atmosphere, such as heat waves or powerful cyclones.

    precipitation Noun

    all forms in which water falls to Earth from the atmosphere.

    Encyclopedic Entry: precipitation


Lockheed Martin