NASA's Juno unveils the depth of Jupiter's Great Red Spot

NASA's Juno unveils the depth of Jupiter's Great Red Spot

Andy Ingersoll, a professor at Caltech and Juno co-investigator said that Juno discovered that the depth of Great Red Spot is around 50 to 100 times deeper as compared to Earth's oceans with temperature increasing as one goes towards the base.

"Juno data indicate that the Solar System's most famous storm has roots that penetrate about 200 miles into the planet's atmosphere". Bolton and his team presented Juno's results at the American Geophysical Union meeting in New Orleans yesterday (Dec. 11).

Juno just wrapped up its eighth flyby of Jupiter which NASA calls "science passes", meaning that all of its instruments are up and running for observation. It is a storm of red clouds that swirls across Jupiter's southern hemisphere.

The scientists, however, debate about the future of the Red Spot as it had been found diminishing since its initial study by the Voyager missions.

While the storm has been monitored since 1830, it has possibly existed for more than 350 years, according to scientists. Current data shows it has been shrinking slowly; in the 19th century, as well as when NASA Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft gathered images, the spot was more than 2 Earths wide.

Juno also found a new zone with radiation which is located just above the atmosphere in Jupiter located near the equator. Energetic hydrogen, oxygen and sulphur ions whip around at the speed of the light close to the planet.

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The new zone was recognised by the Jupiter Energetic Particle Detector Instrument examination.

These particles are produced in the gas clouds around Jupiter's moons, Io and Europa, but are stripped of electrons and become charged as they interact with Jupiter's atmosphere.

Juno also found signatures 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.

The radiation bands are above the equator and around the planet's high latitudes, where spacecraft had not previously explored. When it completes its 12th orbit, the craft is scheduled to plunge into the atmosphere of Jupiter similar to how Cassini met its end in September. The origin and exact species of these particles is not yet understood.

The spacecraft arrived in orbit around Jupiter in summer 2016 and has since performed looping orbits that take it skimming between Jupiter's cloud tops and radiation belts once every 53 days.

This most recent discovery was made thanks to data from Juno's most recent trip over Jupiter, which was widely reported on at the time. Juno principal investigator Scott Bolton, of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, said in a statement. JPL researchers told NASA that this depth, along with the heat of the storm, explains some of the Great Red Spot's better known features, including it's out-of-this-world winds. The Juno mission is part of the New Frontiers Program managed by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, for the Science Mission Directorate.

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