Humanity will soon have a personal view of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot with Juno’s new mission. On Monday, July 10, 2017, celebrating the success and first anniversary orbiting with the NASA spacecraft, Juno will take pictures underneath Jupiter’s obscuring clouds.
The Juno spacecraft has been orbiting Jupiter for a year. The objective for this machine is to provide astronomers with an abundance of data about this gas giant. On Monday, it will fly closer to Jupiter than ever before, and a JunoCam will record what it finds underneath clouds that cover Jupiter’s violent atmosphere.
For 150 years astronomers have been monitoring this planet.
Juno astronomers are able to receive snap shots of Jupiter’s swirling clouds; the top of violent storms that occur on the planet. Now, technology is able to tell how fast the winds are moving inside the storms on Jupiter and how far they stretch. But even with all of that research, astronomers cannot begin to comprehend what the storms underneath the multicolored clouds actually look like.
All that is known about The Great Red Spot is that it is 750 miles wide, 12,400 miles long, and the winds reach up to 400 miles an hour. It is basically a giant spinning storm, twice the size of Earth that is believed to have existed for more than 350 years. But storms like that are not uncommon in violent atmospheres of gas giants.
According to NASA, the spacecraft’s flyby will be approximately 5,600 miles above the Great Red Spot. Most do not know what to expect when Juno comes back from the mission, but previous images indicate it will resemble a gorgeous work of art. Images like a starry painting, rather than a photograph of a storm filled planet.
It is not all about pictures; Juno will use an infrared imager to look at specific molecules inside the storms and record their temperatures. Equiped with a microwave radiometer that will peer beneath the clouds covering the Great Red Spot, for information or clues about the past activities or origin.
Juno has already provided astronomers with insightful information about Jupiter:
- Jupiter’s core is partially dissolved;
- The Jovian auroras of this planet differ from Earth’s;
- Earth sized cyclones were spotted in the atmosphere;
- It has also been found to be the oldest planet in the known solar system.
New information collected about the Great Red Spot will answer unsolved key questions about the origin. However, Juno’s private investigator Scott Bolton says, “One of the key questions here is how deep are the roots to this storm,” which has never been answered because current technology could not make contact with what lies underneath Jupiter’s clouds. The spacecraft was scheduled to end the mission in February 2018, after it completes the required 37 orbits of the gas giant.
According to recent observations, the Hubble Space Telescope revealed the storms in Jupiter’s atmosphere may be shrinking.
Written by Brielle R. Buford
Edited by Jeanette Smith
ars TECHNICA: A year at Jupiter: Juno has revealed the giant of the Solar System
IT – ONLINE: Juno to fly over Jupiter’s red spot
INTERNATIONAL BUISNESS TIMES: NASA’s Juno Mission: 7 things to know about the space probe orbiting Jupiter
GIZMODO: Jupiter’s Great Red Spot Is About to Reveal It’s Mysteries
SPACE.com: Juno Spacecraft Has Close Encounter with Jupiter’s Cloud Tops in 6th Flyby
Featured and Top Image Courtesy of NASA HQ PHOTO’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License