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07/15/2017

Stunning Images of Jupiter's Red Spot

The JunoCam imager aboard NASA's Juno mission snapped breathtaking pics of the most iconic feature of the solar system’s largest planetary inhabitant during its Monday (July 10) flyby. 

Images of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot reveal a tangle of dark, veinous clouds weaving their way through a massive crimson oval. The images of the Great Red Spot were downlinked from the spacecraft’s memory on Tuesday and placed on the mission’s JunoCam website Wednesday morning.

Check them out! 

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This enhanced-color image of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot was created by citizen scientist Jason Major using data from the JunoCam imager on NASA’s Juno spacecraft. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Jason Major

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This enhanced-color image of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot was created by citizen scientist Kevin Gill using data from the JunoCam imager on NASA’s Juno spacecraft. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Kevin Gill

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This enhanced-color image of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot was created by citizen scientist Gerald Eichstädt using data from the JunoCam imager on NASA’s Juno spacecraft. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstädt

“For hundreds of years scientists have been observing, wondering and theorizing about Jupiter’s Great Red Spot,” said Scott Bolton, Juno principal investigator from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. “Now we have the best pictures ever of this iconic storm. It will take us some time to analyze all the data from not only JunoCam, but Juno’s eight science instruments, to shed some new light on the past, present and future of the Great Red Spot.”

As planned by the Juno team, citizen scientists took the raw images of the flyby from the JunoCam site and processed them, providing a higher level of detail than available in their raw form. The citizen-scientist images, as well as the raw images they used for image processing, can be found at:

Measuring in at 10,159 miles in width (as of April 3, 2017) Jupiter's Great Red Spot is 1.3 times as wide as Earth. The storm has been monitored since 1830 and has possibly existed for more than 350 years. In modern times, the Great Red Spot has appeared to be shrinking. 

All of Juno's science instruments and the spacecraft's JunoCam were operating during the flyby, collecting data that are now being returned to Earth. Juno's next close flyby of Jupiter will occur on Sept. 1.

Juno reached perijove (the point at which an orbit comes closest to Jupiter's center on July 10 at 6:55 p.m. PDT (9:55 p.m. EDT). At the time of perijove, Juno was about 2,200 miles above the planet's cloud tops. Eleven minutes and 33 seconds later, Juno had covered another 24,713 miles, and was passing directly above the coiling, crimson cloud tops of the Great Red Spot. The spacecraft passed about 5,600 miles above the clouds of this iconic feature.

Juno launched on Aug. 5, 2011, from Cape Canaveral, Florida. During its mission of exploration, Juno soars low over the planet's cloud tops -- as close as about 2,100 miles. During these flybys, Juno is probing beneath the obscuring cloud cover of Jupiter and studying its auroras to learn more about the planet's origins, structure, atmosphere and magnetosphere.

Early science results from NASA's Juno mission portray the largest planet in our solar system as a turbulent world, with an intriguingly complex interior structure, energetic polar aurora, and huge polar cyclones.

“These highly-anticipated images of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot are the ‘perfect storm’ of art and science. With data from Voyager, Galileo, New Horizons, Hubble and now Juno, we have a better understanding of the composition and evolution of this iconic feature,” said Jim Green, NASA’s director of planetary science. “We are pleased to share the beauty and excitement of space science with everyone.”  

JPL manages the Juno mission for the principal investigator, Scott Bolton, of Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. The Juno mission is part of the New Frontiers Program managed by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, for the Science Mission Directorate. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, built the spacecraft. JPL is a division of Caltech in Pasadena.

More information on the Juno mission is available here.

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