New images released by NASA on Wednesday show Jupiter’s famous Great Red Spot in dramatic detail.
A camera aboard the Juno spacecraft took the images as it orbited about 5,600 miles above the planet’s clouds on July 10.
The Great Red Spot is a swirling storm twice as wide as the Earth that has existed for perhaps more than 360 years.
“For generations people from all over the world and all walks of life have marveled over the Great Red Spot,” said Scott Bolton, principal investigator of Juno from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, in a statement. “Now we are finally going to see what this storm looks like up close and personal.”
The $1.1 billion Juno spacecraft mission involves a science experiment from the University of Arizona scientists. Here’s what you should know.
Arizona has ties to the $1.1 billion mission. University of Arizona Professor William Hubbard is involved in a key gravity experiment to determine whether Jupiter has a core.
Juno entered Jupiter’s orbit about a year ago on the Fourth of July after a five-year voyage through space.
The windmill-shaped spacecraft is about the size of an NBA basketball court and is equipped with a suite of scientific instruments and sensors designed to tell scientists more about the fifth planet from the sun. The spacecraft gets about 2,100 miles above Jupiter’s clouds at times, the closest approach ever made by a spacecraft.
Jupiter is a giant mass of helium and hydrogen. The planet spins so fast that NASA scientists have likened its gravity to a huge slingshot, one that hurls dust and rocks like a spray of bullets.
The planet’s radiation is about 60 million times that on Earth. It’s the equivalent of having 100 million dental X-rays in a little over a year.
The harsh radiation means the Juno spacecraft has a limited life. The orbiting mission is scheduled to last about 20 months.
Then, the craft will drop out of orbit and into Jupiter’s dense atmosphere, where it will disintegrate.
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