Jupiter’s surface has some gigantic storm of crimson clouds bigger than the Earth raging on it. One of the clouds is The Great Red Spot, whose roots run deep, according to the Juno probe.
In this mission to discover Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, the Juno probe has also uncovered two new radiation zones.
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.
As of April 2017, the Great Red Spot measured around 10,000 miles (16,000 km) wide with a diameter of 1.3 times the diameter of Earth. Researchers think that the spot is shrinking in size, because in 1979, when Voyager 1 and 2 went past it, it was twice the size of the Earth.
Juno swung low during its first pass over the Spot in July 2017, capturing some really amazing photographs of the Spot and turning all of its instruments towards it.
The Microwave Radiometer was able to peer deep within the clouds and reveal how far it goes.
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? Juno data indicate that the solar system's most famous storm is almost one-and-a-half Earth-wide, and has roots that penetrate about 200 miles (320 km) into the planet's atmosphere.”
The videos and animation of the Great Red Spot show that the roots go 50 to 100 times deeper than Earth’s oceans and are warmer at the base than on the top.
“Winds are associated with differences in temperature, and the warmth of the spot's base explains the ferocious winds we see at the top of the atmosphere,” says Andy Ingersoll, co-investigator on the Juno project.
Two new radiation zones were also detected while on this operation. Extremely high noise signatures were detected by Juno’s Stellar Reference Unit (SRU-1) in the images collected by the team’s radiation monitoring investigation as the craft passed through Jupiter’s electron radiation belt.
The signatures are a high-energy heavy-ion population but the team is unsure of where the particles came from.
The second radiation zone lies near the equator and is much closer to the surface of the planet. Energetic hydrogen, oxygen and sulphur ions whip around at the speed of the light close to the planet.
Heidi Becker, radiation monitoring investigation lead on the Juno program, says, “The closer you get to Jupiter, the weirder it gets. 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.”
The results were published in December at the American Geophysical Union.
Juno’s next science permit is planned for December 16.