NASA's Juno spacecraft was launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida on Aug. 5, 2011, and successfully entered the orbit of Jupiter on July 4, 2016. About a year later, it has sent back images of the planet's best-known feature -- its Great Red Spot, which is actually a 10,000-mile-wide storm.
Juno passed directly over the storm on July 10, 2017, coming within 5,600 miles above the monster storm. The images snapped by JunoCam were beamed back, then members of the public called citizen scientists enhanced the images to bring out details.
"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.”
Swirling clouds are clearly visible in the storm, which packs winds around 400 mph. Scientists say it will take time to analyze everything.
Named after the king of the Roman gods, Jupiter -- as you'd expect from something with a diameter of about 88,846 miles -- provides a lot to wrap your head around. By comparison, Earth is a relatively tiny 7,900 miles in diameter. Put another way, if Earth is the size of a nickel, Jupiter would be a basketball.
NASA scientists have referred to Jupiter as the biggest and baddest planet in the solar system. Not only is it the largest planet, Jupiter also wields a lot of clout. It's capable of influencing the trajectories of comets and unleashing devastating blasts of radiation, a major hurdle for spacecraft and satellites sent to study the planet.
It is surrounded by more than 50 moons, the four largest of which were discovered by celebrated astronomer Galileo Galilei in 1610 -- Europa, Callisto, Ganymede and Io.
Check out the images of Jupiter below from NASA to see the planet's Great Red Spot and its stripes and swirls in detail.