The Great Red Spot on Jupiter will be observed by Juno spacecraft from the closest distance ever thereby providing us with not only scientific data but also stunning imagery.
Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is a 16,000-kilometer-wide storm that’s been raging for centuries. Juno will soar just 9,000 kilometers above the Red Spot’s swirling clouds, collecting data with its eight scientific instruments and snapping pictures with its JunoCam imager. On July 10, NASA’s Juno spacecraft will fly directly over it, providing the first intimate views of Jupiter’s most famous feature.
Since Juno started orbiting Jupiter last July, it’s revealed many new, sometimes surprising insights into the planet’s structure, atmosphere, and magnetic field. The forthcoming Red Spot observations are expected to help scientists understand what drives Jupiter’s iconic storm.
Scott Bolton, who heads up the Juno mission, says the team is looking forward to exploring a variety of questions when the spacecraft gets there. “The most basic one is: what’s it look like when you get really close?” says Bolton. “That’s sort of a fundamental question, and there are scientific questions of course that are tied to that.”
The data may reveal new details about how this massive storm, with winds whipping as fast as 425 miles per hour, and Jupiter’s atmosphere in general, work. Instruments on the probe might help to explain where the storm gets its red coloration, and could even peer below the surface of the storm for the first time ever.
Although many scientists think the storm’s roots must go very deep into Jupiter’s atmosphere, Bolton says Juno’s observations could potentially throw out that hypothesis. “Until now, we’ve never had any kind of instrument that could see below the top layer, the veneer, of Jupiter.”