Jupiter’s Great Red Spot — the solar system’s most famous storm — is almost one-and-a-half Earths wide and penetrates about 300 kilometres into the planet’s atmosphere, according to data collected by NASA’s Juno spacecraft.
NASA’s Juno spacecraft is getting to the roots of Jupiter’s famous Great Red Spot. New research, collected during the mission’s first pass over the iconic storm, reveals that it extends far beneath the planet’s surface. The spacecraft also discovered two newly identified radiation zones.
It was also discovered that Jupiter has two previously uncharted radiation zones, said the researchers, which include energetic hydrogen, oxygen and sulphur ions moving at almost light speed. The new zones were identified by the Jupiter Energetic Particle Detector Instrument (JEDI) investigation.
“One of the most basic questions about Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is how deep the roots are?” Juno principal investigator Scott Bolton, of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, said in a statement. Bolton and his team presented Juno’s results at the American Geophysical Union meeting in New Orleans yesterday (Dec. 11).
“Juno data indicate that the solar system’s most famous storm is almost one-and-a-half Earths wide, and has roots that penetrate about 200 miles [300 kilometers] into the planet’s atmosphere,” Bolton said.
Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is a giant oval of crimson- coloured clouds in Jupiter’s southern hemisphere that race counter-clockwise around the oval’s perimeter with wind speeds greater than any storm on Earth.
Measuring 16,000 kilometres in width as of April 3, this year, the Great Red Spot is 1.3 times as wide as Earth.
Andy Ingersoll, a professor of planetary science at Caltech and a Juno co-investigator. “Winds are associated with differences in temperature, and the warmth of the spot’s base explains the ferocious winds we see at the top of the atmosphere.””Juno found that the Great Red Spot’s roots go 50 to 100 times deeper than Earth’s oceans and are warmer at the base than they are at the top,”.
The future of the Great Red Spot is still very much up for debate. While the storm has been monitored since 1830, it has possibly existed for more than 350 years.
In the 19th century, the Great Red Spot was well over two Earths wide. However, in modern times, the Great Red Spot appears to be diminishing in size, as measured by Earth-based telescopes and spacecraft, NASA said.
At the time NASA’s Voyagers 1 and 2 sped by Jupiter on their way to Saturn and beyond, in 1979, the Great Red Spot was twice Earth’s diameter.
Today, measurements by Earth-based telescopes indicate the oval that Juno flew over has diminished in width by one- third and height by one-eighth since Voyager times.
Juno also has detected a new radiation zone, just above the gas giant’s atmosphere, near the equator. The zone includes energetic hydrogen, oxygen and sulphur ions moving at almost light speed.
“The closer you get to Jupiter, the weirder it gets,” said Heidi Becker, Juno’s radiation monitoring investigation lead at JPL.
“We knew the radiation would probably surprise us, but we didn’t think we would find a new radiation zone that close to the planet,” said Becker.
The new zone was identified by the Jupiter Energetic Particle Detector Instrument (JEDI) investigation.
Watch the video below: