1st close-up images of Jupiter's Great Red Spot released
Juno spacecraft dives down for an unprecedented look at planet's enormous storm
Images from NASA's Juno spacecraft have begun to arrive less than two days after it flew just 9,800 kilometres above the cloud tops of Jupiter's raging storm, dubbed the Great Red Spot.
Juno began one of its dives on Monday at roughly 9:55 p.m. ET, one of several it will undertake during its time in orbit around the gas giant.
The path took the spacecraft from the north pole over the Great Red Spot to the south pole.
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"We're getting so close and right over the poles, that we see things that no other spacecraft or even telescope from the Earth can possibly see," Scott Bolton, Juno's principal investigator from Southwest Research Institute, told CBC News about the flyby on Monday. "That's what makes [this] so special. We're finally going to fly directly over that spot, and we're going to get our first close-up look at it."
As anticipated, the raw data uploaded to the NASA site has already been processed by ordinary citizens, something that is unique to this mission.
Members of the public are able to take the data, compile it and process it using various software to their liking. Oftentimes, people will adjust saturation, highlighting or other aspects in order to bring out particular features of the clouds.
But only the images closest to what we might expect to see are featured by the Juno team. Others will be added to the public gallery on the NASA Juno website.
Jupiter's Great Red Spot is a storm that's been raging for at least 350 years. Though it has changed over time — and right now it's believed to be shrinking — it is the most persistent storm we know of in our solar system.
But the Great Red Spot isn't the only storm on the planet, just the largest, about 16,000 kilometres wide. Jupiter's swirling cloud tops contain many smaller storms, which combined create a portrait Bolton said is "like a piece of art."
The team will continue to release more images over the coming days.