Scientists believe that Jupiter's famous Great Red Spot could extend deeper into its atmosphere than previously thought.
NASA's Juno spacecraft passed the Great Red Spot, an anticyclone that could swallow Earth twice in 2019. These flights have revealed the structure of the storm in greater detail than any telescope images. These data suggest that the vortex extends from 186 to 312 miles (200 to 500 km) below Jupiter's clouds.
For the past five years, Juno has been orbiting Jupiter and flying by its poles and some of its moons. The spacecraft hadn’t been past the storm's giant storm since July 2017, prior to these latest visits to the Great Red Spot.
2019 Hubble Space Telescope photo, Jupiter and its Great Red Spot. (A. Simon/M.H. Wong/NASA/ESA et al.)
Juno's measurements back then indicated that the vortex extended approximately 200 miles (322 km) into Jupiter’s atmosphere. Scientists at the time found that this vortex was approximately 50-100 times deeper than Earth’s oceans. Juno's most recent flybys suggest that the storm could be even deeper.
Yohai Kaspi from Israel's Weizmann Institute of Science told The Verge that this means there is a huge storm. "If you put this storm on Earth it would reach all the way to space station. It's a monster.
(Gerald Eichstadt/Justin Cowart/NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS)
Above: Animated Great Red Spot based upon velocity data from Juno, wind modelling and other data.
On Thursday, the researchers published their findings in Science.
The jet streams around the Great Red Spot are mysteriously deeper than Jupiter's cloud surface, nearly 1,900 miles (about 3000 km). Researchers aren't certain why.
However, they do know that the Great Red Spot is protected by the jets of gas. The vortex is pushed between two jet streams moving in opposite directions.
The Great Red Spot of Jupiter is surrounded by tumultuous clouds. (A. Simon/NASA/ESA et al)
Marzia Parisi (a Juno scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory) said that "It's amazing that [the Great Red Spot] can go so deep, but it's also surprising it doesn't reach as deep as the jets."
"So something is happening at 500 km that is basically dampening The Great Red Spot."
The Great Red Spot's shape is changing constantly. Since astronomers first began to observe it around 150 years ago, it has been shrinking and becoming increasingly circular. Another group of scientists found that the winds in the outer bands of the cyclone have increased in speed over the past decade while the inner regions have been slowing down.
NASA's Hubble Space telescope measured the Great Red Spot and found that it is shrinking as it gets taller.
Scientists have speculated that the storm could collapse and disappear within a few decades because of its shrinking size. However, other researchers disagree.
Juno, for its part will continue to orbit Jupiter and study Jupiter for four more years.
Business Insider originally published this article.
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