The Great Red Spot on Jupiter is at the same time one of its most noticeable and famous features, as well as its least known ones.
However, this could soon change as, on July 10, NASA’s Juno spacecraft carried out a flyby that got it very up and personal with this iconic storm. It remains to be seen when the collected data will reach Earth.
The Great Red Spot, a Big Red Mystery
The Great Red Spot is one of the most famous features of the one of the largest planet in our Solar System, Jupiter. Scientists estimate that the Red Spot is a 10,000 miles wide storm. Astronomers have been monitoring it ever since it was discovered back in 1830. Research approximates that the storm could be over 350 years old.
“Now, Juno and her cloud-penetrating science instruments will dive in to see how deep the roots of this storm go, and help us understand how this giant storm works and what makes it so special,” stated Scott Bolton.
He is the principal investigator of the Juno mission and part of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. As pointed out by Bolton, Juno’s latest flyby bought it directly over the Red Spot. This is also the closest any human-made spacecraft got to this giant, raging storm.
On July 10, Juno conducted its sixth flyby over the cloud tops of Jupiter. This occurred during the perijove or the point in which a planet’s orbit comes the closest to the world’s center. In Jupiter’s case, this happened this Monday, at 6:55 p.m. PDT or 9:55 p.m. EDT.
AT this time, Juno was some 2,200 miles over its cloud top, and another 11 minutes and 33 seconds later, it should have reached the Great Red Spot. The spacecraft was around 5,600 miles above the Red Spot’s center.
For the occasion, Juno activated all eight of its scientific instruments, as well as its JunoCam, an imager. It remains to be seen when the information they gathered, with this occasion, will make its way back to Earth.
Early data from the Juno mission already helped paint Jupiter as a turbulent world with an “intriguingly complex interior structure, energetic polar aurora, and huge polar cyclones.”
Image Source: Wikimedia