NASA has just released the results of their latest mission to Jupiter. The Juno spacecraft flew over Jupiters Great Red Spot twice and discovered some incredible, never before seen detail about it! With its unique perspective from above, NASA was able to capture a close-up look at how wind moves around the spot’s borders and measure the winds speed. This is groundbreaking research that could help us better understand weather patterns on other planets in our solar system as well as Earth!
It’s no surprise that Jupiter is full of surprises! The planet is constantly changing with storms and weather coming and going. It’s the perfect time to explore it further after it just had four new moons discovered orbiting around it! Jupiter is the largest planet in our solar system, so finding out more about it will help us understand how planets form and evolve.
NASA’s Juno spacecraft was launched from Earth in 2011 and reached Jupiter in 2016. It has been studying the planet ever since, searching for clues about how it formed and how it changed over time. The Great Red Spot is one of the most well-known features on Jupiter, but until now we haven’t had really good measurements of it. The three largest instruments on board the Juno spacecraft, including the Jovian Infrared Auroral Mapper , as well as the Jupiter Energetic-particle Detector Instrument and the Advanced Stellar Camera all worked together to capture this unique data.
Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is a huge anticyclonic storm that has been observed raging on Jupiter for more than 200 years. Winds inside the spot have been measured at about 400 kilometers per hour . That’s nearly twice as fast as hurricane force winds on Earth! The Great Red Spot is roughly the size of Earth and it could fit two entire Earths within it.
One of the most surprising things about this data is that it shows how fast wind is moving inside and around the spot. Winds in Jupiter’s atmosphere can just whip around at speeds faster than a tornado on Earth! Scientists already knew that, but now we have direct measurements that show us just how strong these winds are. This is key information that will help us understand the storm much better.
Now that Juno has passed directly above the spot, scientists are helping figure out what causes it to change color over time. The Great Red Spot appears red because of interactions between Jupiter’s atmosphere and chemicals being carried by its clouds in the storm. As for how long this storm has been raging, scientists estimate it to be at least 350 years.
Juno’s next close encounter with Jupiter will happen on February 2nd 2018. NASA is going to use that flyby to see the Great Red Spot from an even closer angle and get a better understanding of how big of a role wind plays in its existence. Who knows what we might learn if Juno keeps going strong. One thing’s for sure, though: Jupiter has a lot in store to help us learn even more about the mysteries of our universe!