The Great Red Spot, a storm larger than the Earth and powerful enough to tear apart smaller storms that get drawn into it, is one of the most recognizable features in Jupiter’s atmosphere and the entire solar system. The counterclockwise-moving storm, an anticyclone, boasts wind speeds as high as 300 miles per hour. This prominent feature, observed since 1830, and possibly as far back as the 1660s, has long been a source of great fascination and scientific study.
Earlier this week, on Monday, July 10th, the Juno mission accomplished an historic feet as it passed directly over Jupiter’s most famous feature – the Great Red Spot. This massive anticyclonic storm has been raging for centuries, and Juno’s scheduled flyby was the closest any mission has ever come to it. It all took place at 7:06 p.m. PDT (11:06 p.m. EDT), just days after the probe celebrated its first year of orbiting the planet.
There is an “energy crisis” on Jupiter. At 800K (527ºC), its upper atmosphere is 600 degrees hotter than expected – a phenomenon also seen on the other giant planets in our solar system. And to make the matter even more perplexing, researchers have now discovered that the region of the atmosphere above Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, a giant storm system, is hundreds of degrees hotter than anywhere else on the planet.