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Jupiter and the Great Red Spot Jupiter is the fifth planet from the Sun, and, with a diameter of 143,884 kilometres (89,369 miles) the largest planet in the Solar System. Large enough to contain more than 1300 Earths inside it, Jupiter is more massive than all the other planets combined. Along with Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, it is one of the four gas giants. Apart from its relatively small rocky core, Jupiter is almost entirely made up of hydrogen, with no solid surface at all.

A view of the turbulent atmosphere of Jupiter close to the Great Red Spot (top right).


The colourful patterns of red, white, brown and yellow on Jupiter’s surface do not make up any fabulous landscape, but are produced by Jupiter’s swirling atmosphere. The colours themselves come from small amounts of sulphur and phosphorus present in the atmospheric gases. The planet rotates extremely quickly, a fact that some astronomers think is responsible for separating the clouds into different coloured “zones” (the lighter bands) and “belts” (the darker bands), and causing continual storms. Jupiter’s most famous feature, the Great Red Spot, is just such a storm.
The planet Jupiter and its faint rings.
A sequence showing air currents flowing past the Great Red Spot.

Great Red Spot

Jupiter is the third brightest object in the night sky after the Moon and Venus.

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