KATHMANDU — NASA’s Juno spacecraft completed its closest ever flyby of Jupiter’s iconic Great Red Spot a few days ago, capturing some stunning images of Jupiter’s gargantuan hurricane in the process.
Juno, travelling at about 50 kilometres per second, flew within 9,000 kilometres of the billowing brick-red cloud tops of the hurricane, which has been raging for at least 200 years.
The first raw pictures were released online, detailing the gas giant’s ‘Great Red Spot’ — a gigantic high-pressure zone twice the size of Earth.
Scientists say the spot, monitored since 1830, is a massive swirling storm, possibly hammering the solar system’s biggest planet for over 350 years.
Scientists are hoping the images — which will continue to be downloaded into the weekend — will open a new chapter in our understanding of the solar system’s biggest storm.
NASA encouraged enthusiasts to process and enhance the colours and crop the images to highlight different aspects. They show a roiling orange cauldron of clouds 16,000 kilometres wide over a turbulent world with huge polar cyclones and aurora.
The images will be downloaded chronologically as the probe approached the planet, which means they will only get better and more detailed.
Juno’s most recent fly-by was the sixth time it had buzzed the giant planet since putting itself into a precise, lopsided orbit almost exactly a year ago.
— NASA’s Juno Mission (@NASAJuno) July 12, 2017