The mysteries hidden within Jupiter's Great Red Spot are being probed by NASA's Juno spacecraft.
Jupiter's Great Red Spot is a massive oval of red-colored clouds in the gaseous planet's southern hemisphere. The spot is actually a storm that is 1.3 times the size of Earth with winds greater than any storm seen on our home planet.
The storm has been churning continuously at least since the first time it was spotted in 1830, but NASA estimates that it may be as old as 350 years.
When first spotted, the storm was bigger than two Earths put together, but it seems to be diminishing in size.
"Juno found that the Great Red Spot's roots go 50 to 100 times deeper than Earth's oceans and are warmer at the base than they are at the top," said Andy Ingersoll, professor of planetary science at Caltech and a Juno co-investigator.
Juno was launched on August 5, 2011, and arrived in orbit around Jupiter on July 4, 2016. The probe has made eight science passes over Jupiter, and its ninth pass is expected to occur this weekend.
"The closer you get to Jupiter, the weirder it gets," said Heidi Becker, Juno's radiation monitoring investigation lead at JPL. "We knew the radiation would probably surprise us, but we didn't think we'd find a new radiation zone that close to the planet. We only found it because Juno's unique orbit around Jupiter allows it to get really close to the cloud tops during science collection flybys, and we literally flew through it."
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