Surely, your students are familiar with the nine planets that make up our solar system. (And don’t call me Shirley.) They are, of course, familiar with Jupiter, the mightiest of planets. But what know they of the Great Red Spot, the massive storm that has been raging through Jupiter’s atmosphere for centuries? Essentially a giant hurricane, the GRS is estimated to be twice as large as one-and-a-half Earths.
It’s a moving target, literally—like all storms, the Great Red Spot is constantly moving across the planet’s surface. This Demo Science experiment will help you demonstrate the movement of the GRS and help your students understand why it moves like it does.
A Storm in A Jar
For this one, you’ll need a wide-mouthed one gallon beaker or jar, water to fill said beaker/jar, a teabag, and a stirring utensil (a pencil will work marvelously).
Fill your beaker with water, then cut open your teabag and pour the leaves into the water. Place your stir stick in the center of the water and quickly turn it in a small circle. If you do it right, the tea leaves will quickly group together in the swirling water and stay in a spinning bunch in the center of your beaker.
This is literally* exactly how Jupiter’s atmosphere and the Great Red Spot work. Literally*.
Behold The Vortex!
By stirring the water quickly and at the center, you created a vortex that forms a kind-of sort-of “open” cavity in the center of the jar. The pull of this vortex brings the tea leaves together; scientists hypothesize that the red whatever-it-is that makes the Great Red Spot red are pulled together in a similar fashion by the storm’s rapidly swirling gases.
* Not literally.