NASA’s Juno Probe Releases Closest Images Yet Of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot And They Are Breathtaking

NASA's Juno probe releases unprecedented images of Jupiter's Great Red Spot.

NASA has released the “best pictures ever” of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot yet, which were captured when the Juno spacecraft flew over the gas giant’s 10-000-mile-wide-storm on Monday night, BBC reports.

The U.S. space agency’s Juno probe has been in orbit around Jupiter for a year, with each complete elliptical rotation lasting 53 days. On Monday, NASA’s Juno spacecraft skimmed 3,500 km above Jupiter’s cloud tops before directly passing a mere 9,000 km above the Great Red Spot itself. Using Juno’s eight instruments, including the JunoCam, NASA was able to capture massive sets of data that scientists expect will give them a better understanding of the gas giant’s gigantic red storm.

“For hundreds of years scientists have been observing, wondering and theorizing about Jupiter’s Great Red Spot,” Scott Bolton, principal investigator for Juno’s Mission to Jupiter, said in a NASA statement. “Now we have the best pictures ever of this iconic storm. It will take us some time to analyse all the data from not only JunoCam, but Juno’s eight science instruments, to shed some new light on the past, present and future of the Great Red Spot.”

While the Great Red Spot on Jupiter is sometimes compared to hurricanes found on Earth, the differences between them are worlds apart, so to speak. Hurricanes start to dissipate the moment they pass through land. Jupiter’s most iconic feature, however, has been raging for centuries. Although scientists observed that the Red Spot has noticeably shrunk lately, its turbulent activity is expected to last for a very long time.

For years, scientists have been puzzling over how the Great Red Spot is able to maintain its violent activity for centuries. Thanks to Juno probe’s flyby, data sets are already on hand, which would help NASA’s scientists determine the great red storm’s chemical composition, temperature and structure, and depth. NASA’s scientists have long suspected that Jupiter’s massive storm system has very deep roots.

Jonathan Nichols, a British scientist from the University of Leicester, was more than impressed by the photos released by the Juno probe.

“These images are stunning, and reveal Jupiter’s Great Red Spot in all its glory,” he told BBC News.

“From the three swirls inside the deep red core to the waves and vortices orbiting it, the images reveal the power and chaos of this iconic storm.”

“The light and dark shades reveal the wind flow in the spot and potentially the 3D structure of the cloud decks. But the images are also a perfect convergence of science and art, revealing the awesome beauty of the giant planet.”

“The quality of these data are superb, and it bodes well for further Juno data that will reveal how deep into the atmosphere the Great Red Spot extends.”

The gas giant’s giant storm, believed to have been around for 350 years, has been a source of fascination for many scientists and space enthusiasts since the 1800s. While its size is impressive (two Earths can fit inside it), scientists have observed that the massive storm has been showing signs of shrinkage through the years. According to Astro Bob, the Jupiter’s Great Red Spot has downsized by over 3,000 miles since 1995.

For now, scientists only have theories as to what will become of the spot in the far future, whether it will disappear completely or increase momentum again once it reaches a certain point. At any rate, NASA has the data that would help them arrive at an answer.

[Featured Image by Handout/Getty Images]