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Jupiter's Great Red Spot's roots revealed by Juno

Jupiter's Great Red Spot's roots revealed by Juno

"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", says Juno principal investigator Scott Bolton.

"We just know enough to know we were wrong", Southwest Research Institute scientist and principal investigator of the mission Scott Bolton said, The New York Times reported.

The average width of this storm is about one-and-a-half Earths wide and goes as deep as 300 kilometers inside the Jupiter's atmosphere.

Scientists presented the results of their research at the American Geophysical Union meeting in New Orleans on Monday.

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. The Great Red Spot is a giant storm 1.3X the size of Earth that's been raging for hundreds of years.

"Juno found that the Great Red Spot's roots go 50 to 100 times deeper than Earth's oceans and are warmer at the base than they are at the top", added Juno co-investigator Professor Andy Ingersoll, from Caltech. The ferocious wind at the top of the atmosphere gives the clue of the warmth at the bottom. Recently, it flew over Jupiter's famous Great Red Spot.

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The storm is being monitored by NASA since 1830 and is still a matter of debate for researchers. It first passed over the Great Red Spot this past winter. However, the recent measurements by Earth-based telescopes and Juno findings say that the storm's width has diminished by one-third while its height has reduced by one-eighth since the Voyager times.

Juno also has detected a new radiation zone, just above Jupiter's atmosphere, near the equator.

The radiation in this region is thought to stem from fast-moving atoms of hydrogen, oxygen and sulfur. "We only located it because Juno's unique orbit around Jupiter enables it to get close to the cloud tops while science collection flybys, and we flew through it". The Juno spacecraft's ninth scientific pass of the planet will take place later this month, on December 16.

These particles are produced in the gas clouds around Jupiter's moons, Io and Europa, but are stripped of electrons and become charged as they interact with Jupiter's atmosphere.

The radiation bands are above the equator and around the planet's high latitudes, where spacecraft had not previously explored. JPL researchers told NASA that this depth, along with the heat of the storm, explains some of the Great Red Spot's better known features, including it's out-of-this-world winds. These glimpses of Jupiter's atmosphere, which look " like cream swirling in coffee", are the product of an army of space enthusiasts that process the images captured by Juno into ones that can captivate the human eye. Becker and her colleagues are still studying the exact nature of these particles.

Juno had earlier identified auroras in Jupiter's poles.


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