NASA's Juno Orbiter Explores Depths of Jupiter's Great Red Spot

NASA's Juno Spacecraft Looks Into the Depths of Jupiter's Great Red Spot (VIDEO)

Bolton and his team presented Juno's results at the American Geophysical Union meeting in New Orleans yesterday (Dec. 11).

While it certainly looks cool, the animation highlights a new and pretty wonderful fact which is that not only is the Great Red Spot fantastically wide but that its roots extend 50 to 100 times deeper than our own oceans on Earth.

The most famous storm in the solar system is also one of the largest: Jupiter's Great Red Spot. Looking into the Great Red Spot, as well as determining the amount of water in the planet's atmosphere and mapping it's gravity and magnetic fields is all part of putting theories of planet formation to the test. It was made from images from the JunoCam imager on the Juno spacecraft, followed by some computer-generated animations.

Michael Janssen, Juno co-investigator from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory explained that Juno's instrument, Microwave Radiometer has the capability to probe deep inside Jupiter's atmosphere. Juno's next science pass is programmed for December 16.

He called Jupiter's giant storm a good "stress test" for Earth-based weather models. The Great Red Spot is a giant storm 1.3X the size of Earth that's been raging for hundreds of years.

"Juno found that the Great Red Spot's roots go 50 to 100 times deeper than Earth's oceans and are warmer at the base than they are at the top", Andy Ingersoll, Professor at California Institute of Technology and a Juno co-investigator said. The ferocious wind at the top of the atmosphere gives the clue of the warmth at the bottom. The data were collected in the mission's sixth science orbit, during which the spacecraft passed over Jupiter's Great Red Spot.

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The Great Red Spot, which is 1.3 times as wide as Earth, has been monitored by astronomers since 1830. But Earth-based measurements today put the spot at only a third of the size measured by the Voyager probes.

Juno is sending back loads of fun facts, including that the storm is not only the biggest in the solar system but way deeper than any comparatively wee thunderstorm we have here on Earth.

On Monday, scientists said that Juno had discovered a new area of radiation just above the planet's atmosphere at the equator.

Launched on August 5, 2011, Juno has completed eight science passes over Jupiter to date. The neutral atoms then become ions as their electrons are stripped away by interaction with the upper atmosphere of Jupiter.

Juno also discovered features of a high-energy heavy ion population within the inner edges of Jupiter's "relativistic electron radiation belt, a region dominated by electrons moving close to the speed of light", NASA reported.

The radiation bands are above the equator and around the planet's high latitudes, where spacecraft had not previously explored. The origin and exact species of these particles is not yet understood. Juno will continue to keep an eye on happenings at the planet as it continues its scientific investigations.

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