Welcome To Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, The Most Fascinating Place In The Solar System

Space is full of all sorts of strange solar activity, so it's not surprising that the largest planet in our solar system is also home to one of its nastiest storms. The solar system's famous Great Red Spot is a storm on Jupiter that presents itself as a tyrant of swirling heat and sound. But what exactly is Jupiter's Great Red Spot? It's larger than Earth, hundreds of miles deep, and sometimes changes colors, but, most of all, the storm is still a massive mystery.

What lies within the swirling Jovian storm system and how it sustains itself are Great Red Spot facts that humanity is still in the process of unveiling. However, Earthlings have kept their eyes on Jupiter and its signature anticyclone long enough to gather an array of fascinating pictures of the planet, as well as information on the storm size, temperatures, and chemical compositions.

Travel into the eye of the storm and boost your intergalactic knowledge by packing your brain full of what scientists and astronomers have discovered about the Great Red Spot.


  • The Great Red Spot's Wind Speeds Range From 270 To 425 Miles Per Hour

    The Great Red Spot's Wind Speeds Range From 270 To 425 Miles Per Hour
    Photo: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center / Flickr

    On planet Earth, Category 5 hurricanes have sustained winds of 156 mph and higher. Although whipping around at blaring speeds, the winds in the center are relatively calm compared to the speeds surrounding the outside of the storm. On Jupiter, its massive Great Red Spot is much like a hurricane, except the storm rages with sustained wind speeds anywhere from 270 to 425 mph.

    This means that this intergalactic beast of storm kicks off at one and a half times faster than one of our planet's most ferocious cyclones and reaches up to nearly three times its power. The Great Red Spot is also an anticyclone, meaning the winds circulate counterclockwise to that of a cyclone or hurricane on Earth.

  • The Storm Is More Than 200 Miles Deep

    The Storm Is More Than 200 Miles Deep
    Photo: Kevin Gill / Flickr

    NASA's space probe, Juno, dug into Jupiter's Great Red Spot at great lengths to determine how deep the storm really goes. Upon examination as the spacecraft orbited the planet, scientists discovered the howling monster of a storm penetrates 200 miles below the surface of its atmosphere.

    In comparison, that's 50 to 100 times deeper than any of Earth's oceans. Juno's microwave radiometer can only measure depths of up to 200 miles, so the storm's true roots still lie somewhere underneath.

  • The Storm Is About 700 Degrees Hotter Than The Rest Of The Planet

    The Storm Is About 700 Degrees Hotter Than The Rest Of The Planet
    Photo: NASA / Wikimedia Commons

    The Great Red Spot is literally the planet's biggest hot spot. While temperatures on Jupiter will typically linger around 1,700 degrees Fahrenheit, the Great Red Spot heats up to temperatures of around 2,420 degrees Fahrenheit - an entire 720 degrees higher than the average.

    The superheating is a result of gravitational waves and acoustic waves that are produced from the storm's extreme conditions.

  • It Has Lost 1/3 Of Its Size Since 1979

    It Has Lost 1/3 Of Its Size Since 1979
    Photo: NASA / Wikimedia Commons

    Jupiter's massive, swirling enigma isn't getting any bigger - it's actually shrinking in size. Since Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 both observed the Great Red Spot in 1979, its size has shrunk by thousands of miles, reducing its size by nearly 1/3. Once spanning 14,500 miles, the Red Spot is slowly winding down into an orange pinhole, stretching about 10,200 miles across its diameter.

    At this rate of collapse, the Great Red Spot could transform from its oval shape into a complete circle by the year 2040.

  • Its Color Changes With Time

    Its Color Changes With Time
    Photo: Kevin Gill / Wikimedia Commons

    The Great Red Spot isn't always the blazing color red that you'd imagine it would be. The storm has presented a chameleon of colors that have changed since its first recorded observations, shifting between salmon pink and soft violet tones until its solid, deep red state settled in during the early 1880s.

    Now, its colors are transforming once again. Jupiter's red beast is shrinking, and as it does, its colors are fading to a resilient orange.

  • Astronomers Have Been Keeping Their Eyes On It Since The 1830s

    Astronomers Have Been Keeping Their Eyes On It Since The 1830s
    Photo: Kevin Gill / Wikimedia Commons

    Although the Great Red Spot might have first been seen in 1665, described as Jupiter's "Permanent Spot," there are no official recordings of its sightings after 1713. It wasn't until 1831 that Jupiter's massive, swirling storm was officially noticed and drawn out on paper.

    A few decades later, in 1878, Carr Walter Pritchett observed it once again, and decided that it was time to start keeping a steady eye on this beast. The Great Red Spot earned its name and the world's attention that year, and it has kept both ever since.