NASA's Juno probe passes across Jupiter's Great Red Spot

By Brooks Hays  |  July 12, 2017 at 10:02 AM
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July 12 (UPI) -- NASA scientists are fielding the latest rush of data and images from the Juno probe's latest Jupiter flyby. The flyby yielded closeups of the gas giant's famed Great Red Spot.

NASA has promised to share raw images from the flyby in the coming days.

"For generations people from all over the world and all walks of life have marveled over the Great Red Spot," Scott Bolton, principal investigator on the Juno mission, said in a news release. "Now we are finally going to see what this storm looks like up close and personal."

On July 10, at 9:55 p.m. EDT, Juno passed within 2,200 miles of the gas giant's upper atmosphere, as the probe reached the closest point to the planet's center, known as the perijove. A few minutes later, Juno orbited across the face of the Great Red Spot. The probe passed 5,600 miles above the cyclone's cloud tops.

Last week, Juno celebrated a year spent in orbit around Jupiter. Its observations of the gas giant has revealed a complex planet with a turbulent atmosphere. The Great Red Spot is one of many cyclones circling the planet. Previous Juno flybys have revealed a number of intense storms in the planet's polar regions. Jupiter's poles also featured intense electromagnetic storms, yielding colorful auroras.

Previous observations revealed a Great Cold Spot in Jupiter's north pole, a colder and more dynamic localized cyclone in Jupiter's thermosphere, the gas giant's thin, upper atmosphere.

Researchers believe the storm is driven by thermal energy transfer from the planet's magnetic field into the atmosphere, creating a layer of cooling in the thermosphere. This sustained cooling powers the dark cyclone-like system.

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