NASA's Juno Probes: Dive Into The Depths of Jupiter's Great Red Spot

Jan. 12, 2018, 9:15 a.m. By: Kirti

Jupiter's Great Red Spot

The Great Red Spot on the biggest planet in the solar system may have existed since before 1665, but the present spot was first seen only after 1830 and well-studied only in the year 1879 after a prominent partition.

It’s mostly Jupiter’s fault that makes the Understanding the Great Red Spot not so easy, as Jupiter, being a planet that is a thousand times as big as Earth, consists mostly of gas. With an atmosphere that consists mostly of hydrogen and helium, translating into no solid ground like we have on Earth to weaken storms and a liquid ocean of hydrogen surrounds its core.

"One of the most basic questions about Jupiter's Great Red Spot is: How actually deep are the roots?" said Scott Bolton, Juno's principal investigator from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. "The data by Juno indicates that the most famous storm of solar systems is almost one-and-a-half Earths wide and has its roots that penetrate about 200 miles into the planet's atmosphere." said the same.

The science instrument that was responsible for this in-depth revelation was Juno's Microwave Radiometer (MWR). "Juno's Microwave Radiometer(MWR) has the ability to go deep below Jupiter's clouds that is really unique, It proves to be an excellent instrument in order to help us get to the bottom of what makes the Great Red Spot," said Juno co-investigator from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Michael Janssen,

Now, what is this Great Red Spot that we are talking about here?

The giant oval composed of crimson-coloured clouds, that we call the Jupiter's Great Red Spot is located in Jupiter's southern hemisphere that race counterclockwise around the oval's perimeter with wind speeds that are greater than any storm that might ever take place on Earth. As of April 3, 2017, Measuring 10,000 miles (16,000 kilometres) in width, the Great Red Spot is 1.3 times as wide as Earth.

"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," said Juno co-investigator and professor of planetary science at Caltech, Andy Ingersoll, "Winds are associated with differences in temperature, and the warmth of the spot's base explains the ferocious winds we see at the top of the atmosphere."

The Future Of The Great Red Spot:

The future of the Great Red Spot is still very much a heated topic for debate. While the storm has been monitored for almost 188 years since 1830, it might have possibly existed for more than 350 years. In the 19th century, the Great Red Spot was over two Earth wide.

But today, as measured by Earth-based telescopes and spacecraft, the Great Red Spot appears to diminish in its size. At the time, in 1979, when NASA's Voyagers 1 and 2 sped by Jupiter on their way to Saturn and beyond during their journey, the Great Red Spot was twice Earth's diameter. Today, measurements by Earth-based telescopes indicate that the Red Spot has diminished in width by one-third and height by one-eighth since Voyager times when compared to the time when the voyagers went by.

The New Radiation Zone and more:

"The closer you get to Jupiter, the weirder it gets," said Heidi Becker, Juno's radiation monitoring investigation lead at JPL. "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 The unique orbit of Juno around Jupiter during science collection flybys allows it to really get close to the cloud tops, and we flew through it literally."

Juno, just above the gas giant's atmosphere, near the equator, also has detected a new radiation zone. The zone includes energetic hydrogen, oxygen and sulfur ions that move at almost light speed.

The identification of this new zone was done by the Jupiter Energetic Particle Detector Instrument (JEDI) investigation. The particles are said to be derived from energetic neutral atoms that are created in the gas around the moons of the Jupiter: Io and Europa.

Juno also within the inner edges of Jupiter's relativistic electron radiation belt found signatures of a high-energy heavy-ion population. Juno's Stellar Reference Unit (SRU-1) star camera in images that were collected by the mission's radiation monitoring investigation detected the signatures of this population to be as extremely high noise signatures.

NASA's Juno Probes:

Juno that made its launch on Aug. 5, 2011, from Cape Canaveral, Florida, arrived in orbit around Jupiter on July 4, 2016. The Juno mission is part of the New Frontiers Program that is being managed by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

During its long mission of exploration, Juno soared low over the planet's cloud tops as close as about 3,400 kilometres. During these flybys, Juno continues to probe beneath the obstructing cloud cover of Jupiter and studies its auroras in order to learn more about the planet's structure, atmosphere, origins, as well as magnetosphere.

Juno mission is managed by the JPL for Scott Bolton, who is the principal investigator, of Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio.

Fly into the Great Red Spot of Jupiter with NASA’s Juno Mission:

Video Source: NASA