Every fan of Jupiter has ever wondered what’s that big red spot. And you’re not alone. For years, this was a mystery to astronomers, and as it turns out, it’s a storm. Yes, the great red spot on Jupiter is a supermassive hurricane several times wider than Earth. It is ridiculously huge and wide, but how deep does it go? This is what scientist have figured out at long last. According to new results announced by the team behind NASA’s Juno mission, the centuries-long storm could be a clue to its longevity.
Related media: Jupiter’s 3D Atmosphere Revealed By NASA’s Juno Spacecraft (Media Briefing)
Journey To The Spot
The data obtained by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Juno mission has finally revealed just how deep the Great Red Spot of Jupiter goes. Citizen scientists Gerald Eichstädt and Justin Cowart used wind data from JunoCam images to create an animation of a color-image mosaic of its circulation. Later, Juno scientists Shawn Ewald and Andrew Ingersoll applied velocity data from a wind model to produce a looping animation.
In a new study published in Science puts a bottom limit to its depth. The study, which was led by Juno scientist Marzia Parisi at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), analyzed data from two Juno flybys that had the spacecraft zipping right over the Great Red Spot. The team also analyzed data from another 10 passes that revealed the mysteries hidden underneath the Great Red Spot.
The clouds mass amidst its powerful winds induced a minute Doppler shift in Juno’s radio signal that was later analyzed here on Earth by NASA’s Deep Space Network tracking antenna. The team measured deviations in Juno’s expected path to within 0.01 millimeter per second, and were able to peer deep into the gas giant’s depths. The researchers measured the constrain depth to about 300 kilometers (186 miles) below the cloud tops.
Just One Planet, Too Many Storms
According to reports by Parsi and colleagues, the Great Red Spot extends at most 500 kilometers (310 miles) down. But the bulk of the storm is probably within 300 kilometers (186 miles) at cloud tops.
“Most of the scientific community was thinking the Great Red Spot was shallow,” Parisi says. “We were surprised that it goes so deep.”
The storms appears to be shrinking, ever so slightly that it’s sort of a pancake dome. In context, the stripes in Jupiter’s atmosphere (the brown-red belts and zones) even extend much deeper — roughly 3,000 kilometers (1,864 miles), that’s about four percent to the core. However, the actual depth of the vortex is hidden beneath the water condensation layer, beneath the cloud layer, and even well beneath the reach of sunlight.
Nevertheless, the Great Red Spot is not the only storm on Jupiter. There are an order of 100 storm-like features often witnessed by amateur astronomers. A close-up view by Juno reveals on the order of over 1,000 cyclones and anti-cyclones, pop-up clouds, and several streams of winds over the surface.
In another article also published in Science, another team of researchers showed that these other swirls on Jupiter can also run deep — average depths of 100 kilometers (62 miles). In a press conference by NASA, Scott Bolton, Juno’s principal investigator at the Southwest Research Institute, noted that the Great Red Spot is not necessarily the deepest of all of storms. The long-lasting cyclones at Jupiter’s poles could also be in competition for the title.
The Future Of The Giant
In another study that appeared in the Geophysical Research Letters, Alessandro Mura, a Juno co-investigator at the National Institute for Astrophysics in Rome, and the study’s led author, revealed that these polar storms extend really deep. These measurements indicate that all the storms are found around regions out of reach of sunlight and the water condensation cycle, two conditions responsible for storms here on Earth.
“Jupiter’s cyclones affect each other’s motion, causing them to oscillate about an equilibrium position,” Mura says. “The behavior of these slow oscillations suggests that they have deep roots.”
The Juno mission after five years orbiting the gas giant, having made 37 close flybys under the belt to date, are it’s days over? Not too soon. Fortunately, the Juno mission has been extended until 2025 by NASA. Juno has done an impressive job despite the dangerous magnetosphere Jupiter poses, and its just a matter of time for us to discover more from the Big Boss.
Read more facts like this one in your inbox. Sign up for our daily email here.
The Factionary is ever ready to provide you with more interesting content for your reading pleasure. If you’re amazed by our work, you can support us on Patreon with a donation fee of your choice. Thank you!
Written by: Nana Kwadwo, Tue, Feb 01, 2022.