In May of this year, NASA’s Juno spacecraft, which was launched in 2011, buzzed Jupiter and beamed back to us some of the closest images ever of the massive planet’s poles. Now, Juno has completed another elliptical orbit and delivered a brand new view of Jupiter’s most notable and mysterious feature: the roughly 25,000-mile-wide storm known as the Great Red Spot.
Juno is only the second spacecraft to orbit Jupiter, after Galileo originally orbited the gas giant from 1995 to 2003, and is slated for 37 orbits around the planet’s poles before it’s deorbited (disintegrated into Jupiter’s atmosphere). The space probe entered Jupiter’s orbit in July of 2016, and since then has beamed back numerous jaw-dropping photos. These latest vibrant images of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, are perhaps the most stunning however, giving us our closest and clearest view to date of a storm that’s estimated to be somewhere between 187 and 350 years old, with the equivalent diameter of two or three Earths.
The Great Red Spot is mysterious for myriad reasons, including what the exact cause of the storm’s counterclockwise swirl is, as well as why exactly the storm has taken on those specific reddish hues. NASA has said in the past that by understanding how these anomalous weather systems develop on Jupiter, we may be able to better understand our own weather patterns here on Earth.
It’s difficult to say to what extent these images will help NASA identify the causes of this mind-bendingly huge storm, but they certainly deliver a proper dose of cosmic wonder and sense of smallness.
What do you think of these images of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot? Can you even begin to fathom a storm this size? Give us your thoughts below!
Images: NASA / Juno