PERSISTENT STORM

The dramatic way our view of Jupiter’s giant red spot has changed over the past 138 years

A humongous storm has been raging on Jupiter for at least (and possibly much more than) 350 years. At its observed peak in the early 20th century, the “Great Red Spot” stretched more than 40,000 km across the planet, big enough to engulf three Earths placed side by side. It is among the most-studied planetary phenomena, and yet we still don’t fully understand why the spot formed or why it has its deep red color.

This week, NASA’s Juno mission took the closest-yet images of the giant red spot. Quartz has collected archival images to show just how dramatically our view of this Jovial storm has changed over the last 138 years.

1879

One of the oldest photos of Jupiter.
One of the oldest photos of Jupiter. (Agnes M. Clerke)

1890

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An 1891 photograph taken at the Lick Observatory, Mt. Hamilton, California. (Lesia/BDIP)

1973

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NASA’s Pioneer 10 sent these images on December 4, 1973. They were the first up-close photos we’d seen of the gas giant. (NASA)

1979

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Time-lapse sequence taken by Voyager 1 as it approached Jupiter, showing the motion of atmospheric bands, and circulation of the Great Red Spot. (NASA)

1996

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A roughly true-color image of the Great Red Spot of Jupiter as taken by the Galileo spacecraft on June 26, 1996. (NASA)

2000

This true-color composite frame, made from narrow angle images taken on Dec. 12, 2000 by the Cassini spacecraft, captures Io and its shadow in transit against the disk of Jupiter.
This true-color composite frame, made from narrow-angle images taken on Dec. 12, 2000 by the Cassini spacecraft, captures the Jovian moon Io and its shadow in transit against the disk of Jupiter.

2008

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The thermal image on the top here was obtained by the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope in Chile on May 18, 2008. The brighter the color, the hotter the gases. The image shows swirls of warmer air and cooler regions never seen before within the Great Red Spot. That pressure range is close to the altitude of the white, red, and brown aerosols seen in the visible-light image on the bottom, which was obtained by the Hubble Space Telescope on May 15, 2008.

2016

Juno approaches Jupiter. This image of a crescent Jupiter and the iconic Great Red Spot was created by a citizen scientist (Roman Tkachenko) using data from Juno's JunoCam instrument.
This image of a crescent Jupiter and the iconic Great Red Spot was created by a citizen scientist (Roman Tkachenko) using data from NASA’s Juno spacecraft’s JunoCam instrument. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Roman Tkachenko)

2017

The closest-ever image of the giant red spot: 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.
The closest-ever image of the giant red spot: 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. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Jason Major)
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