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.
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.
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 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.
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.