Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is Waaay Too Modest

This enhanced-color image of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot was created by citizen scientist Jason Major using data from the JunoCam imager on NASA’s Juno spacecraft. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Jason Major)

This Thing is Effin’ Awesome, Man! Thanks Juno!

JUPITER ORBIT (NASA PR) — Images of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot reveal a tangle of dark, veinous clouds weaving their way through a massive crimson oval. The JunoCam imager aboard NASA’s Juno mission snapped pics of the most iconic feature of the solar system’s largest planetary inhabitant during its Monday (July 10) flyby. The images of the Great Red Spot were downlinked from the spacecraft’s memory on Tuesday and placed on the mission’s JunoCam website Wednesday morning.

“For hundreds of years scientists have been observing, wondering and theorizing about Jupiter’s Great Red Spot,” said Scott Bolton, Juno principal investigator from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. “Now we have the best pictures ever of this iconic storm. It will take us some time to analyze all the data from not only JunoCam, but Juno’s eight science instruments, to shed some new light on the past, present and future of the Great Red Spot.”

As planned by the Juno team, citizen scientists took the raw images of the flyby from the JunoCam site and processed them, providing a higher level of detail than available in their raw form. The citizen-scientist images, as well as the raw images they used for image processing, can be found at:


This enhanced-color image of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot was created by citizen scientist Kevin Gill using data from the JunoCam imager on NASA’s Juno spacecraft. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Kevin Gill)

“I have been following the Juno mission since it launched,” said Jason Major, a JunoCam citizen scientist and a graphic designer from Warwick, Rhode Island. “It is always exciting to see these new raw images of Jupiter as they arrive. But it is even more thrilling to take the raw images and turn them into something that people can appreciate. That is what I live for.”

Measuring in at 10,159 miles (16,350 kilometers) in width (as of April 3, 2017) Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is 1.3 times as wide as Earth. The storm has been monitored since 1830 and has possibly existed for more than 350 years. In modern times, the Great Red Spot has appeared to be shrinking.

All of Juno’s science instruments and the spacecraft’s JunoCam were operating during the flyby, collecting data that are now being returned to Earth. Juno’s next close flyby of Jupiter will occur on Sept. 1.

Juno reached perijove (the point at which an orbit comes closest to Jupiter’s center) on July 10 at 6:55 p.m. PDT (9:55 p.m. EDT). At the time of perijove, Juno was about 2,200 miles (3,500 kilometers) above the planet’s cloud tops. Eleven minutes and 33 seconds later, Juno had covered another 24,713 miles (39,771 kilometers), and was passing directly above the coiling, crimson cloud tops of the Great Red Spot. The spacecraft passed about 5,600 miles (9,000 kilometers) above the clouds of this iconic feature.

This enhanced-color image of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot was created by citizen scientist Gerald Eichstädt using data from the JunoCam imager on NASA’s Juno spacecraft. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstädt)

Juno launched on Aug. 5, 2011, from Cape Canaveral, Florida. During its mission of exploration, Juno soars low over the planet’s cloud tops — as close as about 2,100 miles (3,400 kilometers). During these flybys, Juno is probing beneath the obscuring cloud cover of Jupiter and studying its auroras to learn more about the planet’s origins, structure, atmosphere and magnetosphere.

Early science results from NASA’s Juno mission portray the largest planet in our solar system as a turbulent world, with an intriguingly complex interior structure, energetic polar aurora, and huge polar cyclones.

“These highly-anticipated images of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot are the ‘perfect storm’ of art and science. With data from Voyager, Galileo, New Horizons, Hubble and now Juno, we have a better understanding of the composition and evolution of this iconic feature,” said Jim Green, NASA’s director of planetary science. “We are pleased to share the beauty and excitement of space science with everyone.”

JPL manages the Juno mission for the principal investigator, Scott Bolton, of Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. The Juno mission is part of the New Frontiers Program managed by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, for the Science Mission Directorate. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, built the spacecraft. JPL is a division of Caltech in Pasadena. More information on the Juno mission is available at:



The public can follow the mission on Facebook and Twitter at:



More information on the Great Red Spot can be found at:



 More information on Jupiter can be found at:


  • publiusr

    I wish folks would quit calling this a hurricane. It’s really an anti-cyclone–High pressure–lthe highest windspeeds along the outer edge. Still explained by Hairy-ball theorem and all.

    If only we had had a spacecraft lower when this thing was larger.

  • duheagle

    It would be nice to have continuous orbital surveillance of every significant object in the Solar System, but the planets should be first priority. With major quantities of cheap lift now coming on-line, it may soon be possible to begin doing this. After that will come the major moons, the biggest asteroids and at least the larger of the Kuiper Belt Objects.

    A lot more planetary science could get done if we got away from this one-at-a-time mission model with big gaps between successive visits we’ve been constrained to by fiscal limitations.

    Especially for the more distant objects with super-lengthy years, it just makes sense to send out a new probe at regular intervals so that there is no gap in coverage due to transit time for a replacement as older probes reach the ends of their useful lives. This would also get the newest available instrument technology on-orbit around objects of interest in the minimum possible time.

    If the probes regularly exceed their nominal design lives – as most seem to do – that means we also get to have two or three such probes doing science at once at each object of interest over the long haul even if the daily “take” from older probes doesn’t match that of their younger, more recently arrived “colleagues.” I can certainly think of worse things to have happen.

    Of course doing this would also require a huge upgrade in capability for the Deep Space Network, but that is already an issue that needs to be addressed.

  • redneck

    I don’t know that it would cost that much more. Serial
    production instead of one offs usually drives cost down.

  • duheagle

    Indeed it would. The smallsat business finally seems to be waking up to the benefits of actual mass production. The planetary science community would do well to follow suit.

    I can see, for example, the advantages of a standard solar-powered bus for inner solar system missions, with electric propulsion, high-gain RF or laser-based commo and durable reaction wheels it could stay in production with only modest changes for a decade or more. Onto this would go a customized assortment of target-specific instruments for each destination that could be incrementally changed for newer probes as technology improves. Build as many per year as budget allows and send one on its way to some significant object every month or two.

    For outer solar system missions an RTG-powered equivalent bus could be separately developed.

    As time goes on, the manufacturing of such probes might well move into cis-lunar space. The outer solar system bus might transition from RTG power to beamed power from solar power satellites in inner solar system orbits.

    To maximize the scientific bang for the buck achieved anent planetary science, we have to transition the production of its hardware away from the artisanal cottage industry model that currently prevails.

  • publiusr

    I want something like JIMO–only with lots of RTGs, a snap reactor–plenty of margin–something that can stay up there a long time–with more instruments than Envisat.