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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Jupiter has a new freckle -- a third red spot much smaller than the well-known Great Red Spot and a newer one dubbed Red Spot Jr., scientists said on Thursday.
The new spot arose from a white oval-shaped storm, and its change to a red color indicates that the storm is swirling up high into the Jovian atmosphere, the international team of planetary scientists said.
The images, taken by the orbiting Hubble space telescope and the Keck telescope in Hawaii, may support the idea that climate change is under way on Jupiter, the largest planet in the solar system.
Amateur planet-gazer Christopher Go of Cebu in the Philippines helped locate the new development.
The gas giant's temperatures may be changing by 15 to 20 degrees Fahrenheit (27 to 36 degrees C), perhaps driving more turbulent storms.
While the Great Red Spot has been visible for as long as 350 years, Red Spot Jr. had only been around since 2006. The team at the University of California Berkeley said all three spots represent storms and must be towering above the methane in Jupiter's atmosphere.
"If this spot and the Great Red Spot continue on their courses, they will encounter each other in August, and the small oval will either be absorbed or repelled from the Great Red Spot," Michael Wong of Berkeley, who worked on the study, said in a statement.
Reporting by Maggie Fox; Editing by Julie Steenhuysen