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Into the eye of the storm: Amazing new images of Jupiter's red spot

NASA's Juno spacecraft has gotten closer than ever to the gas giant.

A spectacular image of Jupiter taken by the Juno probe.

NASA

A spectacular image of Jupiter taken by the Juno probe.

Jupiter’s Great Red Spot has mesmerized stargazers for more than 200 years. This month NASA’s Juno spacecraft passed a mere 9,000 kilometres from the planet’s surface, snapping the most detailed pictures of it, and its iconic red spot, ever seen. Here’s what you need to know about this celestial mystery: For starters, it’s not a “spot.” It’s a (reverse) space hurricane.

How’s the weather?
There’s nothing special about Jupiter’s physics. The great red storm is still raging after all these years because the giant planet is all gas: There’s no solid ground to slow it down, like when a hurricane makes landfall on our planet.

It’s getting smaller
The cyclone is 1.3 times the diameter of the Earth, but shrinking. The earliest measurements put it at 40,000 km across. In 1979 it was half that. Scientists believe clouds colliding with the storm might be sapping it somewhat.

Does it have powers?
High atmospheric pressure and swirling winds. The gases, mainly hydrogen and helium, average a frigid - 164 C. If a mosse stumbled in, it would simultaneously freeze, sink through the gaseous surface of the planet and be crushed.

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