Roots of Great Red Spot of Jupiter revealed by Juno

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The 19th century marked the onset of a Great Red Spot that was more than two Earth wide but since has been diminishing in size when measured on a regular basis by NASA's telescopes and spacecraft.

To get a closer look, Juno swung low during its first pass over the Spot in July 2017, and along with a collection of stunning photos, the spacecraft tuned all of its instruments towards the storm.

The Juno probe has taken five years to make the 1.7 billion mile journey to the solar system's largest planet - and is now gathering data on the mysterious gas giant.

"Juno data indicate that the solar system's most famous storm is nearly one-and-a-half Earths wide, and has roots that penetrate about 200 miles (300 kilometers) into the planet's atmosphere", he added. The Voyager 1 and 2 probes, which passed by the Jupiter in 1979, had found that the Great Red Spot was twice the diameter of Earth. Now with this new information about the depth of the storm, they can rule out a class of models that treat the storm similarly to a storm that we would have Earth because no storm on Earth has roots as deep as the Giant Red Spot does. The storm is 50 to 100X deeper than Earth's oceans.

Scott Bolton, the principal investigator on the Juno project, said, "One of the most basic questions about Jupiter's Great Red Spot is: how deep are the roots?"

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Michael Janssen, Juno co-investigator from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory explained that Juno's instrument, Microwave Radiometer has the capability to probe deep inside Jupiter's atmosphere.

While the Great Red Spot has been monitored by the astronauts since 1830, the storm is believed to have appeared on the planet's surface since some 350 years.

The findings - presented Monday at the American Geophysical Union meeting in New Orleans - suggest the famous Jovian storm has roots that penetrate some 200 miles into Jupiter's atmosphere. Ingersoll further explained that the intensity of winds varies according to the difference in temperature.

Juno has been circling the planet that's made mostly of ammonia, methane, and water since it arrived in 2016 and makes an orbit about every 53 days.

This graphic shows a new radiation zone Juno detected surrounding Jupiter, located just above the atmosphere near the equator. Energetic hydrogen, oxygen and sulphur ions whip around at the speed of the light close to the planet.

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"We didn't think we'd find a new radiation zone that close to the planet", said Heidi Becker, who is leading Juno's radiation monitoring investigation.

Launched on August 5, 2011, Juno has completed eight science passes over Jupiter to date.

The signatures are of a high-energy heavy ion population but the team is unsure of where the particles came from.

Juno had earlier identified auroras in Jupiter's poles.

Juno's next science permit is planned for December 16.

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