NASA has revealed that its Juno spacecraft that is orbiting the gas giant will be flying directly over the planet’s Great Red Spot on July 10.
The Great Red Spot, which is Jupiter’s best known feature, is actually a massive 16,000-kilometer-wide storm that is said to be raging for more than 350 years now. As per records, we started monitoring the storm since 1830.
Scott Bolton, principal investigator of Juno from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, said that Juno’s cloud-penetrating science instruments will enable scientists to see how deep the storm is and will help scientists garner insights into the working of the giant storm.
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 July 10. At the time of perijove, Juno will be about 3,500 kilometers above the planet’s cloud tops.
Eleven minutes and 33 seconds later, Juno will have covered another 39,771 kilometers and will be directly above the coiling crimson cloud tops of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot. The spacecraft will pass about 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.
On July 4 , Juno will have logged exactly one year in Jupiter orbit. At the time, the spacecraft will have chalked up about 114.5 million kilometres in orbit around the giant planet.
Juno was launched in 2011 from the US. During its mission of exploration, Juno soars low over the planet’s cloud tops -as close as about 3,400 kilometres. During these flybys, Juno is probing beneath the obscuring cloud cover of Jupiter and studying its auroras to learn more about the planet’s origins, structure, atmosphere and magnetosphere.
Early science results from NASA’s Juno mission portray the largest planet in our solar system as a turbulent world, with an intriguingly complex interior structure, energetic polar aurora, and huge polar cyclones.