New research done with data sent back from the Juno spacecraftrevealed some of the secrets Jupiter holds. The new findings started with the red spot on the planet, a huge storm that has been brewing at least since humans first observed it in 1830, though NASA officials say the storm could be as old as 350 years.
The Juno craft collected data on the Red Spot when it traveled directly over it for the first time ever in July. NASA presented the data on Monday at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Juno craft revealed that the massive storm goes far deeper below the clouds than researchers expected.
This animated video of the spot takes you right through the upper atmosphere of the Giant Red Spot and down into its depths. It was created with the images from the JunoCam imager on the Juno craft as well as with some computer-generated animations.
The altitude meter along the side of the video can help viewers orient themselves a bit with how far into the clouds the animation is showing. When the Juno craft originally launched in 2011, one of the key questions researchers were looking to answer was how deep the roots of the Giant Red Spot roots went, a question they’ve now partially answered.
The researchers used the Microwave Radiometer on the craft to look down into the spot. Researchers have been running computer models to try to understand the old storm that is about 1.3 times as wide as Earth. Now with this new information about the depth of the storm, they can rule out a class of models that treat the storm similarly to a storm that we would have Earth because no storm on Earth hasroots as deep as the Giant Red Spot does. But the MWR can only measure so deep, meaning the storm might be even deeper than it reveals.
Juno has been circling the planetthat’s made mostly of ammonia, methane, and water, since it arrived in 2016 and makes an orbit about every 53 days. Scientists still aren’t sure, however, what gives the Giant Red Spot its vibrant red color. Discovering what chemical reactions cause the color is difficult to determine,researchers said during a question and answer period following Monday’s conference.
The craft also detected new information about the radiation around Jupiter. The Jupiter Energetic Particle Detector Instrument (JEDI) detected a new radiation zone very near to the planet. This zone is right above the atmosphere on the equator of the planet and is full of energetic hydrogen, oxygen, and sulfur ions that are moving incredibly fast, according to NASA. In addition to this radiation zone, the craft found particles in the relativistic electron radiation belt that have never been observed before and that researchers don’t understand as of now.
The craft is expected to complete 12 orbits of Jupiter total, while it’s ninth orbit is scheduled for Dec. 16. When it completes its 12th orbit, the craft is scheduled to plunge into the atmosphere of Jupiter similar to how Cassini met its end in September.
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