The US space agency’s Juno spacecraft flew over the storm late Monday, offering humanity’s closest look yet at the iconic feature of our solar system’s largest planet.
“For hundreds of years scientists have been observing, wondering and theorizing about Jupiter’s Great Red Spot,” said Scott Bolton, Juno principal investigator from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio.
“Now we have the best pictures ever.”
The pictures can be viewed at https://www.missionjuno.swri.edu/junocam/processing
The Great Red Spot is a storm that has been monitored since 1830 and has possibly existed for more than 350 years. It measured 16,350 kilometers wide on April 3 of this year, which is 1.3 times the size of the Earth.
In modern times, it has appeared to be shrinking.
Scientists hope to learn more about what drives the storm, and Bolton said it would take some time to analyse the data captured by Juno’s eight instruments as it passed over the tempest a height of 9,000 kilometers.
Juno launched in 2011 and began orbiting Jupiter last year. Its next flyby is planned for early September.
“These highly-anticipated images of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot are the ‘perfect storm’ of art and science,” said Jim Green, Nasa’s director of planetary science.
“We are pleased to share the beauty and excitement of space science with everyone.”
Juno reached perijove – the point at which an orbit comes closest to Jupiter’s centre – on July 10.
At the time of perijove, Juno was 3,500 kilometres above the planet’s cloud tops.
Eleven minutes and 33 seconds later, Juno covered another 39,771 kilometres, and passed directly above the coiling crimson cloud tops of the Great Red Spot.
During these flybys, Juno is probing beneath the obscuring cloud cover of Jupiter and studying its auroras to learn more about the planet’s origins, structure, atmosphere and magnetosphere.
Early science results from Nasa’s Juno mission portray the largest planet in our solar system as a turbulent world, with an intriguingly complex interior structure, energetic polar aurora, and huge polar cyclones.
(Source: The Hindustan Times)