from the say-cheese-jove dept.
Just days after celebrating its first anniversary in Jupiter orbit, NASA's Juno spacecraft will fly directly over Jupiter's Great Red Spot, the gas giant's iconic, 10,000-mile-wide (16,000-kilometer-wide) storm. This will be humanity's first up-close and personal view of the gigantic feature -- a storm monitored since 1830 and possibly existing for more than 350 years.
[...] The data collection of the Great Red Spot is part of Juno's sixth science flyby over Jupiter's mysterious cloud tops. Perijove (the point at which an orbit comes closest to Jupiter's center) will be on Monday, July 10, at 6:55 p.m. PDT (9:55 p.m. EDT). At the time of perijove, Juno will be about 2,200 miles (3,500 kilometers) above the planet's cloud tops. Eleven minutes and 33 seconds later, Juno will have covered another 24,713 miles (39,771 kilometers) and will be directly above the coiling crimson cloud tops of Jupiter's Great Red Spot. The spacecraft will pass about 5,600 miles (9,000 kilometers) above the Giant Red Spot clouds. All eight of the spacecraft's instruments as well as its imager, JunoCam, will be on during the flyby.
The Great Red Spot was recently studied by the Gemini North telescope and the Subaru Telescope.
Jupiter's Great Red Spot is one of its most iconic features. The giant storm, which has been raging in the atmosphere of the gas giant for at least hundreds of years, is larger than Earth and can be seen easily even with an amateur telescope. But despite its size and prominence, the Great Red Spot is a mystery that continues to intrigue planetary scientists. Now, NASA's Juno probe has returned the best ever images of the Great Red Spot, following its most recent close flyby of our solar system's largest planet July 10.
The pictures the probe returned are stunning. As it passed over the Great Red Spot at a height of 5,600 miles (9,000 kilometers), Juno's imaging camera, JunoCam, snapped several apple core-shaped photos of the feature in optical light. But pretty pictures weren't Juno's only goal; all of the spacecraft's eight additional instruments recorded data during the flyby as well. Those instruments include a magnetometer, a radio and plasma wave sensor, a microwave radiometer, and an ultraviolet spectrograph. By combining the multi-wavelength data from these state-of-the-art instruments, scientists can create a more complete model of the storm than ever before.
"These highly-anticipated images of Jupiter's Great Red Spot are the 'perfect storm' of art and science. With data from Voyager, Galileo, New Horizons, Hubble and now Juno, we have a better understanding of the composition and evolution of this iconic feature," said Jim Green, NASA's director of planetary science, in a press release.