INNOVATION

NASA Captures First Close-Up Pictures Of Jupiter's Great Red Spot

13/07/2017 8:18 PM AEST

NASA’s Juno spacecraft has just sent back the very first close-up pictures of Jupiter’s largest and most impressive storm, the Great Red Spot.

In what was a groundbreaking flyby the tiny spacecraft came to within just 3,000km of the gas giant and was able to capture some stunning close-ups of the largest storm in the solar system.

NASA / SwRI / MSSS / Gerald Eichstadt / Sean Doran PUBLIC DOMAIN

NASA always uploads its images in raw form allowing members of the public to enhance them, colourise them and then submit them to NASA to be featured.

The flyby, which took place on Monday, is the closest a spacecraft has ever gotten to the storm and the hope is that the images will be able to answer just a few of the many questions researchers have on the phenomenon.

The Great Red Spot is without a doubt one of the wonders of the solar system, it spans twice the width of Earth at over 10,000 miles wide and much of it still remains a complete mystery to us.

What the pictures do reveal is not only the severity of the storm but the sheer beauty of it.

Unlike thunderstorms back on Earth, Jupiter’s Great Red Spot has been raging for over 350 years, however scientists believe that it could finally be starting to die down. 

NASA / SwRI / MSSS / Sean Korbitz PUBLIC DOMAIN

Don’t let that fool you though, winds within its eye still hit a staggering 400mph.

Despite its size, Jupiter still remains a considerable mystery. What we do know though is that surrounding its core is an ocean of liquid hydrogen. Surrounding that is then an atmosphere made up mostly of hydrogen and helium.

That’s where are knowledge starts to get a little thin. It’s still not entirely clear what’s driving the Great Red Spot, or what elements are at play that causes its distinctive red colour.

 

NASA’s Juno Spacecraft

Juno is now officially the farthest solar-powered spacecraft from Earth and will begin a two-year mission of discovery which will help scientists better understand one of the largest objects in our solar system.

Using Juno’s complex array of cameras and sensors the team hope to answer some long-awaited questions, including whether Jupiter actually has a solid core or if it really is just a swirling ball of gas.

The 1.7bn mile journey to the solar system’s largest planet lasted five years and cost $1.1bn (£850m). As Juno entered Jupiter’s orbit, Scott Bolton, principle investigator of the Juno mission, said: “We just did the hardest thing Nasa has ever done.”

Despite their aluminium structures, Galileo and co will never return. Juno is already beginning to break down. Over the next two years the craft will slowly disintegrate at the hands of Jupiter’s fierce radiation.

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