Transit Times of Jupiter's Great Red Spot

Calculate the best times to see the Great Red Spot.

by Adrian R. Ashford and Alan M. MacRobert

Jupiter as seen by the Cassini spacecraft
A true-color image of Jupiter taken by NASA's Cassini spacecraft on October 8, 2000. The Great Red Spot is upper left of center. It always stays in the south edge of the brownish South Equatorial Belt. In this image south is up to match the inverted view in many astronomical telescopes.
Courtesy NASA/JPL/University of Arizona.
Jupiter's most famous feature is its Great Red Spot (GRS). The spot was named around 1878 when it turned a vivid brick red, but in recent decades it has generally been a much less conspicuous pale tan. The Red Spot is a vast, long-lived storm, spinning like a cyclone. However, unlike low-pressure cyclones and hurricanes on Earth, the GRS rotates in a counter-clockwise direction in Jupiter's southern hemisphere, showing that it is a high-pressure system.

Of course there's a lot more to look for in Jupiter's atmosphere than the GRS. That's a good thing, because for something so famous, it can be surprisingly difficult to see. It appears slightly more distinct when Jupiter is viewed through a light green or blue filter.

Below is a calculator you can use to predict the local and Universal Times and dates when the center of the Great Red Spot should cross Jupiter's central meridian, the imaginary line down the center of the planet's disk from pole to pole. Press "Initialize to today" to view the dates and times of the next three transits of the GRS. Or you can enter any date in 2012 or 2013 to find other transit times. The listed times should be accurate to within a few minutes.

Please enter a date:
Universal Times
of Red Spot transits
centered on date:

local dates & times
of Red Spot transits:

Note: local times are based on a time zone offset of
  hour(s) from UT as given by your Web browser.

The predictions assume the Red Spot is at Jovian System II longitude 173°, based on historical trends noted by JUPOS. If the GRS moves elsewhere, it will transit 1 2/3 minutes late for every 1° of longitude greater than 150° or 1 2/3 minutes early for every 1° less than 150°.

Features on Jupiter appear closer to the central meridian than to the limb — and thus are well placed for viewing — for 50 minutes before and after their transit times.

Click here for a printable list of all predicted Great Red Spot transits through Dec 2012.