Jupiter—the closest gas giant to our planet—is possibly also one the most fascinating celestial bodies humanity is knowledgeable of. But just as fascinating as the planet itself is Jupiter’s red spot—a gargantuan, cyclonic storm, the size of three earths (about sixteen thousand miles across), swirling tempestuously in the southern hemisphere of this great, majestic planet. In fact, when measured with the storms on earth, Jupiter’s Red Spot has the force and power of a Category 20 hurricane (earth storms are ranked on a scale of 1 to 5)! And it is this red storm that has been a powerful source of intrigue for scientists and astronomers for hundreds of years—since it consists of a captivating entity disarmingly close to ourselves. Undoubtedly, Jupiter is around 588 million kilometers from the earth, but when held against the fabric of the universe, that massive distance isn’t really very overwhelming at all.
The defining feature of Jupiter, the iconic Red Spot has persisted for centuries; the hurricanes on earth last a matter of hours or even for a mere few minutes—due to the presence of land. However, Jupiter has no land—so it is not highly surprising that a tempest that has been initiated will not cease its motion for an extremely long period of time. The winds of this spot (the largest vortex in the Solar System) possess a five-day long rotation, blow at around 384 miles per hour, and are anticyclonic; an anticyclone is a wind system with has a high atmospheric pressure at the center, around which air circulates in a clockwise in the northern hemisphere and counterclockwise in the southern hemisphere (the winds on earth blow in precisely the opposite directions). All the same, even though these winds are extremely powerful in the periphery of the spot, the center is quite calm—sort of like the lack of motion inside the eye of the hurricane.