Mystery Image Contest: October 7-21, 2013


The Great Red Spot is a storm on the planet Jupiter's southern hemisphere. Jupiter is known as a "gas giant," which means that it is primarily made up of gases. This means that what we see as the surface of Jupiter is not solid rock (as we see on the moon, for example) but is, in fact, its very thick atmospheric layer of gases. The Great Red Spot is part of this atmosphere. Astronomers first recorded observing the Great Red Spot in 1831, though the storm itself could be over 300 years old. The Great Red Spot appears red in color, but scientists aren't sure why—the cloud's coloration could be caused by red phosphorous, a sulfur compound, or another organic compound. At its largest recorded size, it was nearly 44,000 kilometers in diameter. It is large enough to fit two or three Earths inside it! In the last several decades, the Great Red Spot has become shorter longitudinally, and if it proceeds at the same rate it could become circular in shape by 2040. Scientists aren't sure when or what could cause the Great Red Spot to die down and disappear in the future.


This picture is of the Great Red Spot, a storm on the surface of the planet Jupiter.

Photo Credit


Winning Entry

Barbara Zabel
Seventh Grade Science Teacher, New Brunswick MS
New Brunswick, NJ

For Educators

Teaching Support

Science NetLinks has dozens of lessons and tools on astronomy and planetary science (several of which are linked below) if you wish to incorporate this month's Mystery Image Contest into a related unit with your class. The Mystery Image Contest also can be used as a short, one-off activity with students to practice the scientific skill of empirical observation. List students' observations about the mystery image and help them make an educated guess as to what it is. With the answer revealed, revisit students' original observations: Which turned out to be correct and which were not? What do we know about the image now that we didn't before? How can students make better informed observations in the future? The skills of observation, educated guessing, and hypothesis-testing are all important pillars in scientific inquiry and the Mystery Image Contest provides a great opportunity to hone them.

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Science NetLinks Mystery Image Contest Rules and Regulations

What Is the

Mystery Image Contest?

The Mystery Image Contest offers the chance to identify a science-related object based on a close-up picture of it.