What Causes the Great Red Spot on Jupiter?

Quck answer

The Great Red Spot on Jupiter is a massive storm that has been raging for at least 400 years. It is believed to be a high-pressure system with strong winds that create a swirling effect, giving it its distinctive red color. The exact cause of the storm is still unknown, but scientists speculate that it may be related to Jupiter’s internal heat and its complex atmospheric dynamics. The Great Red Spot is an iconic feature of Jupiter and studying it can help us understand more about the planet’s atmosphere and weather patterns.


Can you recognize most of the planets in our solar system just by looking at them? Some of them are probably quite easy to identify.

For instance, almost everyone knows what Earth looks like. Some people think it looks like a blue marble because of the large amount of water covering its surface.

Many individuals can also identify Mars because of its distinctive red color. Similarly, Saturn’s unique rings make it easy to remember. Those who are familiar with Jupiter often recognize it by its Great Red Spot.

Why does Jupiter have a Great Red Spot? Did it get sunburned? Did aliens accidentally spill something? Could it be an ocean filled with cranberry juice? None of these farfetched ideas come close to the truth, which is that Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is an enormous storm.

Jupiter’s Great Red Spot makes Earth’s storms look tiny in comparison. The largest and most powerful storms ever recorded on Earth have been massive hurricanes that spanned 1,000 miles with winds reaching speeds of 200 miles per hour.

The Great Red Spot stretches about 1.3 times the size of Earth with winds that can reach maximum speeds of up to 400 miles per hour! The storm has been raging on Jupiter for at least 150 years and possibly as long as 400 years or more. In comparison, Earth’s longest storm, Hurricane John in 1994, lasted 31 days.

How is it possible for such a large storm to persist for such a long time? The Great Red Spot’s longevity is a result of Jupiter itself. Jupiter is about 1,000 times larger than Earth, but it is mostly composed of gas. This means there is no solid ground like on Earth to weaken a storm.

The Great Red Spot has also lasted longer than other storms on Jupiter because it is located between two powerful jet streams that flow in opposite directions. Scientists compare the storm to a spinning wheel caught between conveyor belts moving in opposite directions.

Despite its long existence, the Great Red Spot has been gradually shrinking. In the late 1800s, the Great Red Spot was about four times the size of Earth. By 1979, when the Voyager 2 spacecraft flew past Jupiter, the storm had decreased to about twice the size of Earth.

Currently, the Great Red Spot is about 1.3 times the size of Earth. Some scientists believe that it will continue to shrink and could disappear within the lifetimes of today’s youth.

With the help of new photographs and data from NASA’s Juno spacecraft, scientists are still studying Jupiter and its Great Red Spot today. Some scientists are still trying to determine why the storm is red. The most popular theory at the moment is that cosmic rays or ultraviolet radiation from the Sun are reacting with ammonium hydrosulfide in Jupiter’s atmosphere.

Give It a Try

Are you prepared to explore the solar system? Have a great time participating in the following activities with a friend or family member:

  • NASA’s Juno spacecraft has recently captured impressive images of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot. Check them out online to see the storm in True Color.
  • While “Great Red Spot” is an accurate name for Jupiter’s enormous storm, do you think astronomers could have chosen a better one? If you were a marketing expert, what alternative names could you come up with for the Great Red Spot? Make a list of at least five potential names and share them with someone. What do they think? Did you come up with a better name?
  • Do you consider Jupiter one of the most visually stunning planets in our solar system? Visit Jupiter: Galleries online to view more photographs of this immense planet taken by NASA’s Juno spacecraft. Which photo is your favorite? Why?

Sources of Wonder

  • https://www.nasa.gov/feature/goddard/jupiter-s-great-red-spot-a-swirling-mystery
  • http://www.businessinsider.com/jupiter-great-red-spot-death-2017-7

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