While the swirling winds of hurricanes down here on Earth are terrifying in their own right, they don’t have anything on the most terrifying storm in the solar system. Jupiter’s Great Red Spot might look like a cross between a hipster latte and a Jelly Belly from afar, but up close in personal this crimson tempest could literally tear the skin from bone.
NASA’s Juno spacecraft did humans a favor and got closer to the cosmic Eye of Sauron than any of us would ever care to. This color-enhanced image fuses together three separate photos of the planet that were taken on April 1 as Juno was roughly 23,000 miles (37,015 kilometers) from its cloud tops. Citizen scientists Gerald Eichstädt and Seán Doran then processed the image using data from the JunoCam imager to give us a better look at the cyclone’s howling winds of death.
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Super Typhoon Tip was one of the most massive storms to be recorded on Earth. It spanned approximately the distance between New York City to Dallas and whipped up wind gusts reaching 190 miles per hour (306 kilometers per hour). That’s all child’s play compared to the Great Red Spot that was once recorded to be about two to three times larger than Earth and capable of creating 400 miles per hour winds.
Studies have shown that Jupiter’s upper atmosphere consists of ammonia, ammonium hydrosulfide, and water. Two of which are highly toxic to humans and can cause burning of the eyes, nose, throat and respiratory tract and can result in blindness, lung damage, or death. Imagine that being thrown in your face at half the speed of sound.
Luckily Juno can surf atop of the literal hellscape that is Jupiter to give astronomers hints of what lies beneath the planet’s dense clouds of noxious gas. Currently the Juno mission is funded through July 2018 for a total of 12 orbits of the gas giant. After that NASA can decide to extend its mission or let it drift off into Jupiter’s atmosphere.
Until then, we still have a couple of months of some eye-popping visuals of Jupiter’s absolutely deadly, but oh-so breathtaking squall. More proof that space is out to kill us all.