(WMC) - For hundreds of years astronomers gazed at Jupiter and wondered about the mysterious red spot on the planet.
At one time, the spot was the four times the size of Earth. But today, it is about one and a half times our planet's size.
In 2011, NASA launched the Juno spacecraft on a 365-million-mile journey to study the giant gas planet and its mysterious red spot.
On Monday, the spacecraft beamed back some of the most astonishing images ever seen of the massive storm. The craft passed just 5,600 miles over the storm to capture the closest images scientist have ever seen.
Winds within the storm are estimated to be around 400 miles per hour. It is driven by two rapidly moving jet streams, one to the north and another to the south, both moving at 300 miles per hour.
The fast-moving jet streams are due to the rapid rotation of the gas planet. One complete rotation takes only 10 hours compared to the 24-hour rotation of Earth.
The giant red spot has been churning since at least the 1600s when it was spotted by early astronomers. The longest lasting storm on record on Earth was Hurricane John in the Pacific Ocean. That storm lasted a mere 31 days.
Scientists are excited about the opportunity to know more about Jupiter's giant red spot (GRS) with this new data from the Juno spacecraft.
The craft is not only sending back high-resolution images, but it's also sending powerful magnetometers, which will allow scientists to know more about the planet's magnetic field and the forces that drive the storm.
As new data continues to stream back to Earth, we can expect to know more about our solar system's biggest and longest lasting storm.