When 17th-century astronomers first turned their telescopes to Jupiter, they noted a conspicuous reddish spot on the giant planet. This Great Red Spot is still present in Jupiter's atmosphere, more than 300 years later. It is now known that it is a vast storm, spinning like a cyclone. Unlike a low-pressure hurricane in the Caribbean Sea, however, the Red Spot rotates in a counterclockwise direction in the Southern Hemisphere, showing that it is a high-pressure system. Winds inside this Jovian storm reach speeds of about 270 mph.
The Red Spot is the largest known storm in the solar system. With a diameter of 15,400 miles, it is almost twice the size of the entire Earth and one-sixth the diameter of Jupiter itself. However, the Red Spot does change its shape, size, and color, sometimes dramatically. At first glance, Jupiter looks like it has a mild case of the measles. Five spots - one colored white, one blue, and three black - are scattered across the upper half of the planet.
Closer inspection by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope reveals that these spots are actually a rare alignment of three of Jupiter's largest moons - Io, Ganymede, and Callisto - across the planet's face. In this image, the telltale signatures of this alignment are the shadows [the three black circles] cast by the moons. Io's shadow is located just above center and to the left; Ganymede's on the planet's left edge; and Callisto's near the right edge. Only two of the moons, however, are visible in this image. Io is the white circle in the center of the image, and Ganymede is the blue circle at upper right. Callisto is out of the image and to the right.