“Great Red Spot”, one of Jupiter’s symbols is being watched continuously for more than 180 years, but now we are closer to it than ever.
NASA’s Juno mission is going to fly right over the 10,000 mile wide storm. This will be unprecedentedly close encounter with a long lasting mystery. At NASA they say this will be “humanity’s first up-close and personal view” of the phenomenon. This mission includes instruments from University of Iowa
Bill Kurth, a UI space researcher and lead investigator for the Waves instrument aboard Juno said “We’ll be about 5,600 miles above the cloud tops when we’re over the Great Red Spot. Given that the Great Red Spot is maybe 10,000 miles across, that’s pretty close.”
Collecting data in this mission will help us understand how deep into the atmosphere this storm goes and why is it there for probably more than 350 years. First observations of this phenomenon were made by Giovanni Cassini in 1665.
“That’s precisely why we’re interested in taking these measurements,” said Kurth, “People have been studying the generation of storms like the Great Red Spot in gas giant planets for a number of years. … But since we don’t know how deep into the atmosphere this feature exists, it’s hard to have a complete model.” Kurt has been working on the mission for years with a big team of researchers.
In 2011 Juno began his 1.74 billion mile journey to Jupiter. At that time scientists’ intention was not to pass over the “Great Red Spot”. Main focus of the mission was to make make a network of observations by making about 30 science orbits. And all that to determine the amount of water in Jupiter’s atmosphere, investigate its poles (concrete his auroras), map its magnetic and gravitational fields and find out its atmospheric composition.
Measuring Jupiter’s auroras by UI’s Waves instrument, which are at the same time strongest auroras in the solar system is of greater importance than flying over the red spot.
“But it just so happened that the spot is under where we’re flying over Monday,” said Kurt. “It’s certainly something that we looked forward to doing, we simply didn’t drive the mission to make that measurement.”
“Now that it’s happening,” Kurth said, “We’re all very excited about the possibility of the images that will come back and the other measurements.”
Scientists have realised there is a possibility of flying over the spot just recently, within last few months. Encounter is planned to last only for a few minutes, but the reward is expected to be huge.
“Due to the spacecraft’s position, data will take days to transfer back to Earth. Measurements and readings could take much longer to process,” said Kurt, “But I’m certain you will see some great images of the red spot from this upcoming flyby as soon as they’re available.”