Thanks to NASA’s Juno probe, specialists and space enthusiasts might finally have an idea as to just how deep Jupiter’s Great Red Spot actually is. Based on the data received so far, its depth looks much deeper than anyone could have predicted.
New Discoveries About the Great Red Spot
The Great Red Spot is a continuous cyclone on Jupiter’s surface named for its massive size and red color. About 1.5 Earths in diameter or around 15,835 miles wide, a NASA probe observed that the root of the storm penetrates at least 200 miles into the planet’s atmosphere.
According to one of the co-investigators on the Juno probe, Professor Andy Ingersoll of Caltech, the Spot is observed to be hotter at the base than at the top. It also appears to be up to a staggering 100 times deeper than our planet’s oceans.
Professor Ingersoll states that the extreme winds observed at the top of the Great Red Spot are affected by this depth. For example, they could lead to a significantly warmer and less destructive base.
The Juno probe was launched in 2011 and finally fell into orbit around Jupiter in 2016, but it was not until early 2017 that the data it’s been collecting finally reached Earth. Among the many discoveries made thanks to the probe is the confirmation that the Spot itself is actually shrinking.
The newest images of it are consistent with the trend seen from Earth-based telescopes and the Voyager probes. These have been showing that the width and depth of the Spot have become slightly smaller since it was first observed, by one-third and one-eighth, respectively.
A new radiation zone was also detected just around the atmosphere at the planet’s equator. This was noted to be containing several different elements moving at near light speed.
While many more mysteries still revolve around the Great Red Spot and Jupiter itself, the data sent back by Juno is still coming in and will no doubt give us more to study for years to come.
Image Source: JPL/NASA