NASA’s Juno mission just hit a high point with a buzzing flyby on Monday night of one of Jupiter’s most notable features: the Great Red Spot, a massive spinning storm that is a focus of fascination for scientists and space fans. This is the closest Juno has been to the distinctive oval-shaped spot, which is twice as wide as Earth.
It takes about 45 minutes for signals from Juno to make it back to Earth. The spacecraft successfully phoned home after its close flyby, which took it to within about 5,600 miles (9,000 kilometers) of the storm’s clouds.
Juno collected data and images during the journey. According to a Twitter post, the Juno team expects to release images on July 14.
The Great Red Spot puts Earth storms to shame. Scientists believe it may have been around for over 300 years, though we’ve been following it from our planet since the early 1800s.
“Now, Juno and her cloud-penetrating science instruments will dive in to see how deep the roots of this storm go, and help us understand how this giant storm works and what makes it so special,” says Juno principal investigator Scott Bolton.
Juno launched in 2011 and reached orbit at Jupiter in July 2016 on a mission to learn more about the massive gas giant’s origin, evolution, atmosphere and structure. This close-up look at the Giant Red Spot should help clear up some of the mystery around the raging storm.
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