Jupiter's 'Great Red Spot' has been the subject of interest for scientists for decades and now NASA's Juno spacecraft is ready to explore this 16,000-kilometer-wide storm, possibly existing for more than 350 years.
Juno and its cloud-penetrating science instruments will dive in to see how deep the roots of this storm go, making this humanity's first up-close and personal view of the gigantic feature that has been under the scanner since 1830. All eight of the spacecraft's instruments as well as its imager, JunoCam, will be on during the flyby.
Scott Bolton, principal investigator of Juno from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio said, "Jupiter's mysterious Great Red Spot is probably the best-known feature of Jupiter. This monumental storm has raged on the solar system's biggest planet for centuries".
The data collection of the Great Red Spot is part of Juno's sixth science flyby over Jupiter's mysterious cloud tops.
Perijove that defines the point when at which an orbit comes closest to Jupiter's centre will take place on July 10. At this point of time, Juno will be about 3,500 kilometres above the planet's cloud tops.
Eleven minutes and 33 seconds later, Juno will have covered another 39,771 kilometres and will be directly above the coiling crimson cloud tops of Jupiter's Great Red Spot. The spacecraft will will fly directly over the giant planet’s most famous feature at an altitude of only about 9,000 kilometers.
On July 4, Juno will celebrate its first anniversary in the Jupiter orbit. At the time, the spacecraft will have chalked up about 114.5 million kilometres in orbit around the giant planet.
"The success of science collection at Jupiter is a testament to the dedication, creativity and technical abilities of the NASA-Juno team", said Rick Nybakken, project manager for Juno from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in the US.
"Each new orbit brings us closer to the heart of Jupiter's radiation belt, but so far the spacecraft has weathered the storm of electrons surrounding Jupiter better than we could have ever imagined", he further added.