Jupiter’s iconic red swirl was first spotted through early telescopes hundreds of years ago yet much about it remains a mystery.
Thanks to the Juno space mission, NASA has now got closer to the Red Spot than ever before.
On Monday, the spacecraft came as close as 9,000 kilometres (5,600 miles) to the storm in order to photograph it in its full intensity.
“For hundreds of years scientists have been observing, wondering and theorising 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 analyse 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.”
The Great Red Spot is an impressive mass of swirling gas twice as wide as Earth itself. With winds of up to 400mph, it dwarves even the fiercest of tropical hurricanes recorded back on Earth.
Jupiter is a massive gas planet, mostly consists of a hydrogen and helium based atmosphere. Surrounding its core is liquid ocean of hydrogen with no solid landmasses whatsoever.
Jupiter was photographed by NASA’s Juno spacecraft
NASA launched its spacecraft in 2011
Yet strangely enough Jupiter has a strong magnetic field of its own – a conundrum that the space mission investigated.
Now we have the best pictures ever of this iconic storm
In order to peer inside the gas giant, NASA equipped the space probe with powerful magnetometers which allowed the team to map the planet’s magnetic field.
Last year Jack Connerney, head of the magnetometer team at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre, said that the measurements were the first of their kind.
“This is our first opportunity to do very precise, high-accuracy mapping of the magnetic field of another planet,” he said.
Juno photographed the gas giant from about 9,000 km away
The storm has winds of up to 400 miles an hour
The Big Reds Spot has been observed as far back as the 17th century
“We are going to be able to explore the entire three-dimensional space around Jupiter, wrapping Jupiter in a dense net of magnetic field observations completely covering the sphere.”
The Juno spacecraft began its lonely 588 million kilometre (365 million mile) trek to the gas giant in 2011. It finally reached its destination on July 4.
Astronomy enthusiasts are encouraged to join in with NASA’s research by submitting their own photographs of Jupiter or to help out by processing Juno’s raw images.
Processing the raw images reveals hidden amounts of stunning detail and information. The photographs can be found here.