A guide to Jupiter’s Great Red Spot

Facts about Jupiter's Great Red Spot and images of the centuries-old cyclone.

Jupiter's Great Red Spot storm, as seen by NASA's Juno spacecraft. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Kevin Gill

Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is a huge storm in Jupiter’s Southern Hemisphere that’s about 1.3 times as wide as planet Earth.

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It is a giant oval storm of whirling clouds that travel anticlockwise, with wind speeds reaching up to 680 kilometres per hour: much faster than any of Earth’s storms.

Scientists got their best ever look at the storm when NASA’s Juno spacecraft flew over the Great Red Spot on 10 July 2017.

During the flyover, Juno passed about 9,000 km above the Great Red Spot’s cloud tops.

Data collected by NASA’s Juno spacecraft has revealed that the Great Red Spot penetrates at least 320km down into Jupiter’s atmosphere. That’s over 30 times deeper than the deepest point of Earth’s oceans.

A view of Jupiter's Great Red Spot captured by the Juno spacecraft and processed by citizen scientist Kevin M Gill. Image data: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS Image processing by Kevin M. Gill, © CC BY
A view of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot captured by the Juno spacecraft and processed by citizen scientist Kevin M Gill. Image data: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS. Image processing by Kevin M. Gill, © CC BY

How old is the Great Red Spot?

The Great Red Spot is known to have been raging for centuries, having been observed by astronomers for over 300 years.

Astronomers Robert Hooke and Giovanni Cassini are known to have observed and recorded a feature located on Jupiter at the Great Red Spot’s latitude, suggesting they may have also observed the huge cyclone.

But the first confirmed sighting of the Great Red Spot is thought to have been by German amateur astronomer Samuel Heinrich Schwabe in 1831.

Revealing the detailed beauty of Jupiter’s clouds, this image shows the intense colour palette of the Great Red Spot and is proof that the storm – which has raged for over 150 years – is shrinking. Credit: NASA, ESA, A. Simon (Goddard Space Flight Center) and M.H. Wong (University of California, Berkeley)
Revealing the detailed beauty of Jupiter’s clouds, this image shows the intense colour palette of the Great Red Spot and is proof that the storm – which has raged for over 150 years – is shrinking. Credit: NASA, ESA, A. Simon (Goddard Space Flight Center) and M.H. Wong (University of California, Berkeley)

How big is the Great Red Spot?

Observations of the Great Red Spot have shown that it is shrinking over time.

The Voyager spacecraft recorded the width of the Great Red Spot as around 25,000km in 1979 – about twice the diameter of Earth – and it’s now thought to have shrunk to 16,000km, as of April 2017.

Data from ground-based telescopes reveals that the Great Red Spot has reduced in width by a third and height by one eighth since the time of the Voyagers’ fly-by.

An image of Jupiter and its Great Red Spot, captured during the Voyager mission. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
An image of Jupiter and its Great Red Spot, captured during the Voyager mission. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Pictures of the Great Red Spot

There are plenty of amazing images of the Great Red Spot captured by the Juno spacecraft and the Hubble Space Telescope over the years.

Below is a selection of images of the Jovian storm captured by astrophotographers and BBC Sky at Night Magazine readers.

For advice on capturing images of Jupiter yourself, read our guide on how to photograph the planets.

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And don’t forget to send us your images or share them with us via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Jupiter November 10 by Jim Thurston, London, UK. Equipment: Celestron 9.25
Jupiter November 10 by Jim Thurston, London, UK. Equipment: Celestron 9.25″ SCT, DMK21, Astronomik RGB filters.
Jupiter and GRS by Justin Haylock, Essex, UK. Equipment: C9.25, NEQ6, DFK21AU618
Jupiter and GRS by Justin Haylock, Essex, UK. Equipment: C9.25, NEQ6, DFK21AU618
First image of Jupiter & Red Spot by David Burr, Wimborne, Dorset, UK. Equipment: Celestron 8
First image of Jupiter & Red Spot by David Burr, Wimborne, Dorset, UK. Equipment: Celestron 8″ SCT, Canon EOS 500D.
GRS and Oval BA by Tom Howard, Crawley, Sussex, UK. Equipment: DBK21 CCD, x2.5 Televue PowerMate, Celestron C11, EQ6 Mount.
GRS and Oval BA by Tom Howard, Crawley, Sussex, UK. Equipment: DBK21 CCD, x2.5 Televue PowerMate, Celestron C11, EQ6 Mount.
Jupiter from London, Nov 18 2012 by Jim Thurston, London, UK. Equipment: Celestron 9.25
Jupiter from London, Nov 18 2012 by Jim Thurston, London, UK. Equipment: Celestron 9.25″ SCT, DMK21, Astronomik RGB filters.
Jupiter, 19th November 2012 by Jim Thurston, London, UK. Equipment: Celestron 9.25
Jupiter, 19th November 2012 by Jim Thurston, London, UK. Equipment: Celestron 9.25″ SCT, DMK21, ICx618 chip, Astronomik RGB filters.
Jupiter GRS by Paul Mason, Midlands UK. Equipment: Meade LS8, 3X barlow, Philips webcam
Jupiter GRS by Paul Mason, Midlands UK. Equipment: Meade LS8, 3X barlow, Philips webcam
Jupiter GRS by Ron Atkins, Worcester UK. Equipment: Celestron C9.25 XLT, Skywatcher NEQ6, DFK 21.AU04.
Jupiter GRS by Ron Atkins, Worcester UK. Equipment: Celestron C9.25 XLT, Skywatcher NEQ6, DFK 21.AU04.
Jupiter, the Great Red Spot and 2 Moons by Richard Wykes, Kettering, Northamptonshire, UK. Equipment: Skywatcher 200P, NEQ6 mount, 3X Barlow lens & QHY5L-II camera.
Jupiter, the Great Red Spot and 2 Moons by Richard Wykes, Kettering, Northamptonshire, UK. Equipment: Skywatcher 200P, NEQ6 mount, 3X Barlow lens & QHY5L-II camera.
Jupiter, GRS and Moons by Dave Parker, Ripley, Surrey, UK. Equipment: Altair Astro 115 EDT, QHY5II, Powermate Televue x2.5, NEQ6.
Jupiter, GRS and Moons by Dave Parker, Ripley, Surrey, UK. Equipment: Altair Astro 115 EDT, QHY5II, Powermate Televue x2.5, NEQ6.
Jupiter, Europa and the Great Red Spot by Alan Kennedy, Ferryhill, Co. Durham, UK. Equipment: 8
Jupiter, Europa and the Great Red Spot by Alan Kennedy, Ferryhill, Co. Durham, UK. Equipment: 8″ SCT, NEQ6 mount, ZWO ASI120MC CCD, 2x Vixen barlow.
Jupiter by Tom Howard, Crawley, Sussex, UK. Equipment: Celestron Skyris 618C camera, Celestron C11 telescope, EQ6 mount.
Jupiter by Tom Howard, Crawley, Sussex, UK. Equipment: Celestron Skyris 618C camera, Celestron C11 telescope, EQ6 mount.
Jupiter and Great Red Spot by Keith Johnson, Durham, UK. Equipment: ZWO ASI120mm camera, USB motorized focuser, Televue 2.5x Powermate, Celestron C9.25
Jupiter and Great Red Spot by Keith Johnson, Durham, UK. Equipment: ZWO ASI120mm camera, USB motorized focuser, Televue 2.5x Powermate, Celestron C9.25″ O.T.A, Skywatcher EQ6 Pro mount, Baader Planetarium R.G.B.filters, XAGYL motorized USB filter wheel.
Jupiter by Paul Williamson, Abu Dhabi. Equipment: Skywatcher AZ-EQ6 mount, Celestron C11, Tele Vue Powermate x2.5, TIS DMK21.618 camera & Baader RGB filters
Jupiter by Paul Williamson, Abu Dhabi. Equipment: Skywatcher AZ-EQ6 mount, Celestron C11, Tele Vue Powermate x2.5, TIS DMK21.618 camera & Baader RGB filters
Jupiter and its Great Red Spot with a Webcam by Houssem Ksontini, Tunis, Tunisia. Equipment: Skywatcher 150/750, Neq3-2 mount, Barlow x3, Logitech C270
Jupiter and its Great Red Spot with a Webcam by Houssem Ksontini, Tunis, Tunisia. Equipment: Skywatcher 150/750, Neq3-2 mount, Barlow x3, Logitech C270
Jupiter and the Great Red Spot by Harvey Scoot, Essex, UK. Equipment: C14 Edge HD, ZWO224MC camera, Pierre Astro ADC.
Jupiter and the Great Red Spot by Harvey Scoot, Essex, UK. Equipment: C14 Edge HD, ZWO224MC camera, Pierre Astro ADC.
Jupiter, 2016 March 4th by David Attie, Abu Dhabi, UAE. Equipment: C11, Barlow APN 2,7x, Filter wheel Celestron Skyris+ LRGB Baader filters, QHY5L-IImono, AZ-EQ6
Jupiter, 2016 March 4th by David Attie, Abu Dhabi, UAE. Equipment: C11, Barlow APN 2,7x, Filter wheel Celestron Skyris+ LRGB Baader filters, QHY5L-IImono, AZ-EQ6
Jupiter with its Great Red Spot and 2 of its Galilean Moons, Europe and Io by Houssem Ksontini, Tunis, Tunisia. Equipment: Skywatcher 150/750, Neq3-2 mount, Logitech C270, Barlow x3
Jupiter with its Great Red Spot and 2 of its Galilean Moons, Europe and Io by Houssem Ksontini, Tunis, Tunisia. Equipment: Skywatcher 150/750, Neq3-2 mount, Logitech C270, Barlow x3
Jupiter and the Great Red Spot by Tom Bishton, Brisbane, Australia. Equipment: Celestron CPC 800, Celestron skyris camera, HP laptop
Jupiter and the Great Red Spot by Tom Bishton, Brisbane, Australia. Equipment: Celestron CPC 800, Celestron skyris camera, HP laptop
Jupiter's Super Storms by Paul Cotton, Launceston, Cornwall, UK. Equipment: NEQ6 Pro Mount, Celestron C9.25 XLT, Powermate x2.5, ASI 120mc-s @54fps
Jupiter’s Super Storms by Paul Cotton, Launceston, Cornwall, UK. Equipment: NEQ6 Pro Mount, Celestron C9.25 XLT, Powermate x2.5, ASI 120mc-s @54fps
Jupiter with the Great Red Spot by Mark Shaw, Boston, Lincolnshire, UK. Equipment: 12
Jupiter with the Great Red Spot by Mark Shaw, Boston, Lincolnshire, UK. Equipment: 12″ Revelation Dobsonian, NEQ6, ZWO ASI120MC, 2X Televue Barlow.
Jupiter from North London by Stephen Heliczer, Cuffley, London, UK. Equipment: Celestron Evolution 8, ZWO ASI 120MC camera, Barlow.
Jupiter from North London by Stephen Heliczer, Cuffley, London, UK. Equipment: Celestron Evolution 8, ZWO ASI 120MC camera, Barlow.
Jupiter and GRS on 01st Jan 16 by Harvey Scoot, Essex, UK. Equipment: C14 Edge HD, ZWO224MC CCD.
Jupiter and GRS on 01st Jan 16 by Harvey Scoot, Essex, UK. Equipment: C14 Edge HD, ZWO224MC CCD.
Jupiter and GRS by Harvey Scoot, Essex, UK. Equipment: Celestron 11 Edge HD, ZWO120MC CCD, Pierre Astro ADC
Jupiter and GRS by Harvey Scoot, Essex, UK. Equipment: Celestron 11 Edge HD, ZWO120MC CCD, Pierre Astro ADC
Jupiter and the great red spot from UK by Harvey Scoot, Essex UK. Equipment: C14 Edge HD, ZWO 224MCS, Pierre Astro ADC.
Jupiter and the great red spot from UK by Harvey Scoot, Essex UK. Equipment: C14 Edge HD, ZWO 224MCS, Pierre Astro ADC.
GRS Transit from UK by Harvey Scoot, Essex UK. Equipment: C14 Edge HD, ZWO224MC, Pierre Astro ADC.
GRS Transit from UK by Harvey Scoot, Essex UK. Equipment: C14 Edge HD, ZWO224MC, Pierre Astro ADC.
GRS Transit from Essex UK by Harvey Scoot, Essex UK. Equipment: Modified C14 Edge HD, ZWO224, Pierre Astro ADC.
GRS Transit from Essex UK by Harvey Scoot, Essex UK. Equipment: Modified C14 Edge HD, ZWO224, Pierre Astro ADC.
Jupiter and it's Red Spot by Chris Campbell, Widnes, Cheshire, UK. Equipment: Skywatcher 130/900, 2x Barlow Lens, Modified Microsoft HD3000 Webcam
Jupiter and it’s Red Spot by Chris Campbell, Widnes, Cheshire, UK. Equipment: Skywatcher 130/900, 2x Barlow Lens, Modified Microsoft HD3000 Webcam
Jupiter with Great Red Spot on 2nd May by Ralph, Lisburn, Co. Antrim. Equipment: Celestron C8 SCT, Skywatcher HEQ5PRO Synscan Mount, ZWO 290MM CMOS, Baader LRGB filters, x2 Barlow lens.
Jupiter with Great Red Spot on 2nd May by Ralph, Lisburn, Co. Antrim. Equipment: Celestron C8 SCT, Skywatcher HEQ5PRO Synscan Mount, ZWO 290MM CMOS, Baader LRGB filters, x2 Barlow lens.
Jupiter with Great Red Spot on 2nd May by Ralph Smyth, Lisburn, Co. Antrim. Equipment: Celestron C8 SCT, Skywatcher HEQ5PRO Synscan Mount, ZWO 290MM CMOS, Baader LRGB filters, x2 Barlow lens.
Jupiter with Great Red Spot on 2nd May by Ralph Smyth, Lisburn, Co. Antrim. Equipment: Celestron C8 SCT, Skywatcher HEQ5PRO Synscan Mount, ZWO 290MM CMOS, Baader LRGB filters, x2 Barlow lens.
Great Red Spot by Fernando Oliveira De Menezes, New York, USA. Equipment: Celestron CPC C11 EDGE, ASI 290 MC, Powermate 2,5x
Great Red Spot by Fernando Oliveira De Menezes, New York, USA. Equipment: Celestron CPC C11 EDGE, ASI 290 MC, Powermate 2,5x
Jupiter and GRS by Avani Soares, Parsec Observatory, Canoas, Brazil. Equipment: C14 Edge, ASI 224, PM 2X, L filter
Jupiter and GRS by Avani Soares, Parsec Observatory, Canoas, Brazil. Equipment: C14 Edge, ASI 224, PM 2X, L filter
Giving a close look at GRS! by Avani Soares, Canoas, Brazil. Equipment: C14 HD, ASI 290 MC, PM 2X, L filter
Giving a close look at GRS! by Avani Soares, Canoas, Brazil. Equipment: C14 HD, ASI 290 MC, PM 2X, L filter