Jupiter’s Great Red Spot Goes Really Deep Into The Planet’s Atmosphere

Posted: Dec 15 2017, 8:24am CST | by , Updated: Dec 15 2017, 8:35am CST, in Latest Science News


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Jupiter’s Great Red Spot Goes Really Deep into the Planet’s Atmosphere
Credit: NASA

Data collected by NASA's Juno spacecraft indicate that the iconic feature is more than 200 miles deep

NASA researchers have finally been able to probe the depths of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot. Using data from NASA's Juno spacecraft, researchers have found that Jupiter’s mysterious Great Red Spot extends more than 200 miles into the planet’s atmosphere. That makes it 50 to 100 times deeper than the oceans on Earth.

“One of the most basic questions about Jupiter's Great Red Spot is: how deep are the roots?" said Scott Bolton, Juno's principal investigator from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. "Juno data indicate that the solar system's most famous storm is almost one-and-a-half Earths wide, and has roots that penetrate about 200 miles (300 kilometers) into the planet’s atmosphere.”

The estimates were made on the basis of data collected by NASA Juno spacecraft's first pass over Jupiter's Great Red Spot in July 2017. These are the humanity's first up-close views of the solar system’s biggest storm that has been around for at least 350 years.

Discovered in 1665, Jupiter’s raging storm is located in the southern hemisphere and has been continuously observed since 1830. Yet very little is known about its roots.

Juno spacecraft, which arrived at Jupiter in July 2016, is studying the planet's iconic feature in more detail than ever before. During its July flyby, Juno was directly above the coiling crimson cloud tops of Jupiter's Great Red Spot and all of its instruments were operating and collecting data as the spacecraft was diving into them. The results indicate that Jupiter’s giant storm penetrates well below the clouds.

Besides groundbreaking scientific observations of Great Red Spot, Juno also has detected a new radiation zone, just above the gas giant's atmosphere, near the equator. In the new radiation zone, energetic hydrogen, oxygen and sulfur ions are moving at almost light speed.

“We knew the radiation would probably surprise us, but we didn't think we'd find a new radiation zone that close to the planet. We only found it because Juno's unique orbit around Jupiter allows it to get really close to the cloud tops during science collection flybys, and we literally flew through it." Heidi Becker, Juno's radiation monitoring investigation lead at JPL, said.

Juno has completed eight passes over Jupiter to date. Its ninth flyby will be on Dec. 16.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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