NASA Spacecraft Flies Over Jupiter’s Mysterious Red Spot For The First Time

Posted: Jul 14 2017, 3:36pm CDT | by , Updated: Jul 14 2017, 3:38pm CDT, in News | Latest Science News

 

NASA Spacecraft Flies Over Jupiter’s Mysterious Red Spot for the First Time
Credit: NASA
 

Juno's close flyby of Great Red Spot provides more insight into the iconic feature of Jupiter

NASA’s Juno spacecraft has successfully made its closest approach to the mysterious Red Spot of Jupiter. On July 10, the spacecraft flew directly over the red spot at an altitude of just 5,600 miles. No other spacecraft has been this close to Jupiter’s most famous feature before.

The Great Red Spot is actually a massive swirling storm that is located in Jupiter’s southern hemisphere. It measures more than 10,000 miles in diameter and is almost twice as wide as Earth. Scientists have been observing this storm since 1830 and believe it may have existed for more than 350 years, but they still know very little about it underlying processes.

“Jupiter's mysterious Great Red Spot is probably the best-known feature of Jupiter," said Scott Bolton, principal investigator of Juno probe. “This monumental storm has raged on the solar system's biggest planet for centuries.”

During the recent close flyby, Juno’s all science instruments including camera were operating and they pierced through the Jupiter’s clouds to see how deep the roots of this storm go. The images of Jupiter’s most iconic feature taken by JunoCam are now being returned to Earth. On Wednesday, NASA has also released those spectacular close up images. The data and images will help understand how this massive storm works and how long it has been around.

“For hundreds of years scientists have been observing, wondering and theorizing about Jupiter's Great Red Spot," said Bolton. "Now we have the best pictures ever of this iconic storm. It will take us some time to analyze all the data from not only JunoCam, but Juno's eight science instruments, to shed some new light on the past, present and future of the Great Red Spot.”

Launched in August 2011, NASA’s Juno spacecraft entered Jupiter’s orbit on July 4, 2016. The spacecraft gets close to Jupiter every 53 days and peers into its unique features obscured by clouds. By getting up close with Jupiter, researchers are hoping to learn more about the planet's origins, structure, atmosphere and magnetosphere.

Previous images sent by Juno probe have showed Jupiter’s previously unseen poles with an intriguingly complex interior structure, strong magnetic field, auroras and monster cyclones. New images, combined with data to be gathered as Juno mission continues, could provide more insight into the turbulent atmosphere in and around Jupiter's Great Red Spot.

“These highly-anticipated images of Jupiter's Great Red Spot are the 'perfect storm' of art and science. With data from Voyager, Galileo, New Horizons, Hubble and now Juno, we have a better understanding of the composition and evolution of this iconic feature," said Jim Green, NASA's director of planetary science. "We are pleased to share the beauty and excitement of space science with everyone."

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.

 

 

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