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

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

In July, NASA Juno spacecraft flew over the spot and NASA then used that data to produce a simulated flight through the Great Red Spot.

"One of the most basic questions about Jupiter's Great Red Spot is: how deep are the roots?" said Scott Bolton, Juno's principal investigator, in a press release.

Thanks to the data regarding the depth of the storm, scientists know that no storm on Earth has winds as fast as the Great Red Spot, and that, as the MWR has revealed as much as it can, there is a possibility that the storm could be even deeper than the data reveals.

The findings were announced Monday at a presentation at the American Geophysical Union meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana.

The probe contains a suite of tools, and the most recent revelations came from its Microwave Radiometer - a device built specifically to peer deep into the planet's atmosphere.

A wind-movement model animates a mosaic image of Jupiter's Great Red Spot made from JunoCam images.

Juno's other discoveries at Jupiter include clusters of 600-mile-wide cyclones at the planet's poles and an uneven magnetic field that is weak in some places, but in others is 10 times as strong as anything found on Earth.

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"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. "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", says Ingersoll. It has been under observation since 1830 and is believed to exist for more than 350 years. But Earth-based measurements today put the spot at only a third of the size measured by the Voyager probes.

The data from the Juno spacecraft was gathered as it passed over the spot for the first time in July, and also showed two radiation zones that had not been identified before, Space.com reported. "We only found it because Juno's unique orbit around Jupiter allows it to get really close to the cloud tops during science collection flybys, and we literally flew through it", Becker said.

Juno's ninth science pass over Jupiter will take place on December 16, while most of us here are watching Star Wars, satisfyingly.

The previously uncharted radiation zone was detected by the Jupiter Energetic Particle Detector Instrument.

Juno was launched in August, 2011, with the goal of helping scientists understand more about the "origin and evolution" of the planet Jupiter. The particles are considered to be derived from energetic neutral atoms formed in the gas around the Jupiter moons Io and Europa. During its mission of exploration, Juno soars low over the planet's cloud tops - as close as about 2,100 miles (3,400 kilometers). But none of the eight spacecraft that preceded Juno at Jupiter had spotted it. The neutron atoms lose their electrons in the upper atmosphere of Jupiter to become ions. Image credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / SwRI.

The spacecraft found another area of high-energy particles in Jupiter's inner radiation belt, where electrons move at almost the speed of light.

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