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Jupiter is a giant ball of gas and liquid with little, if any, solid surface. Instead, the planet's surface is composed of dense red, brown, yellow, and white clouds. The clouds are arranged in light-colored areas called zones and darker regions called belts that circle the planet parallel to the equator.
Jupiter's most outstanding surface feature is the Great Red Spot, a swirling mass of gas resembling a hurricane. The widest diameter of the spot is about three times that of Earth. The color of the spot usually varies from brick-red to slightly brown. Rarely, the spot fades entirely. Its color may be due to small amounts of sulfur and phosphorus in the ammonia crystals.
The edge of the Great Red Spot circulates at a speed of about 225 miles (360 kilometers) per hour. The spot remains at the same distance from the equator but drifts slowly east and west.
The zones, belts, and the Great Red Spot are much more stable than similar circulation systems on Earth. Since astronomers began to use telescopes to observe these features in the late 1600's, the features have changed size and brightness but have kept the same patterns.