A massive storm bigger than the Earth has been raging for centuries on Jupiter, and now Juno is swooping in for a closer look. The spacecraft will come within a few thousand miles of the Great Red Spot, probing the storm to hopefully reveal some of its mysteries – and no doubt snapping some stunning photos in the process.
July 4 marks the first anniversary of Juno's arrival in Jupiter's orbit, and early observations paint the planet as an angrier, more turbulent place than astronomers suspected. Nowhere is that more apparent than the Great Red Spot, a storm 10,000 miles (16,000 km) wide that may have marked the gas giant's surface for over 350 years.
At 2:06 am UTC on Tuesday July 11, Juno will fly directly over the Great Red Spot, at a height of 5,600 miles (9,012 km) above the churning cloud tops. The spacecraft's eight instruments will all be switched on to study the storm, including its imager, so we'd expect to see some pretty amazing close-up shots in the near future.
"Jupiter's mysterious Great Red Spot is probably the best-known feature of Jupiter," says Scott Bolton, principal investigator on the Juno program. "This monumental storm has raged on the solar system's biggest planet for centuries. Now, Juno and her cloud-penetrating science instruments will dive in to see how deep the roots of this storm go, and help us understand how this giant storm works and what makes it so special."
Source: Jet Propulsion Laboratory