NASA’s Juno mission has taken some new breathtaking pictures of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot. The JunoCam mounted on the satellite took some detailed photos of one of the gas giant’s major features. All the photos were then compiled by several citizen scientists, who were then able to put forward enhanced-color imagery of the spot. These images have taken the space science sector by storm, as explained by Juno principal investigator Scott Bolton:
“For hundreds of years scientists have been observing, wondering and theorizing about Jupiter’s Great Red Spot. Now we have the best pictures ever of this iconic storm. It will take us some time to analyze all the data from not only JunoCam, but Juno’s eight science instruments, to shed some new light on the past, present and future of the Great Red Spot.”
The spot, which measures over 16,000 kilometres (10,000 miles) in width has been present on the surface of the planet for more than 350 years, but has been reducing in size over the past several years. Larger than the size of our own planet, the storm is one of the many features that has made Jupiter such an intriguing research subject for scientists. Juno’s mission is not just to document the spot, but to dive through the planet’s cloud cover to record a wide range of information, which is set to help scientists understand more about Jupiter.
Early data from Juno’s flyby has so far shown that the largest planet in our solar system has some complex behaviours and properties. From huge polar cyclones to large auroras and atmospheric turbulences, the gas giant hasn’t disappointed on that front. Whilst there still remains a lot of data to sift through and analyse in details, NASA scientists are already very happy with the initial returns of the mission, per NASA’s director of planetary science Jim Green:
“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. We are pleased to share the beauty and excitement of space science with everyone.”
Juno is expected to make another pass through Jupiter’s atmosphere on September 1st, which will hopefully yield more interesting information for the research teams back on Earth to dissect. It is hoped that by the end of Juno’s mission, we have a better understanding as to the origins and makeup of Jupiter, which could help us understand the gas giants found elsewhere across the universe.