The Roots of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot Run Deep

Great Red Spot animation
This animation makes use of wind knowledge to depict the circulation of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot. Citizen scientists Gerald Eichstädt and Justin Cowart turned JunoCam photographs right into a color-image mosaic. Then Juno scientists Shawn Ewald and Andrew Ingersoll utilized velocity knowledge from a wind mannequin to supply a looping animation.
NASA / JPL-Caltech / SwRI / MSSS / Gerald Eichstadt / Justin Cowart

Just how far down does Jupiter’s iconic Great Red Spot go? The deep roots of the centuries-long storm might be a clue to its longevity, based on new outcomes introduced by the group behind NASA’s Juno mission.

Previous work utilizing the microwave radiometer of NASA’s Juno spacecraft, nonetheless zipping across the big planet each 53 days, probed the depths of the Great Red Spot. But whereas microwaves may help scientists peel again the highest cloud layers, the microwave observations might solely present that the Great Red Spot continues to be going robust 200 kilometers (120 miles) under the cloudtops.

Now, a research within the October twenty eighth Science now places a backside restrict to its depth. Juno scientist Marzia Parisi (NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory) led an effort using two Juno passes that had the spacecraft zipping proper over the Great Red Spot. The group additionally analyzed knowledge from one other 10 passes.

Flight over Great Red Spot
This illustration depicts Juno’s flight over Jupiter’s Great Red Spot. The focus of mass associated to the highly effective winds surrounding the storm induced a minute Doppler shift within the spacecraft’s radio alerts that might be measured by a NASA’s Deep Space Network monitoring antenna on Earth. By measuring the tiny change within the spacecraft’s velocity, the science group might constrain the depth of the Great Red Spot to about 300 km under the cloudtops.
NASA / JPL-Caltech / SwRI

Flying at about 130,000 mph (59 km/s) when at its closest, the spacecraft’s path modified ever so barely as a result of of the uneven distribution of mass within the clouds under. By measuring deviations to Juno’s anticipated path to inside 0.01 millimeter per second, researchers have been in a position to peer deep throughout the planet.

Parisi and colleagues report that the Great Red Spot extends at most 500 km down. The bulk of the storm’s mass might be throughout the high 300 km or so.

“Most of scientific community was thinking the Great Red Spot was shallow,” Parisi says. “We were surprised that it goes so deep.”

Jupiter's Great Red Spot
This JunoCam picture of Jupiter’s south temperate belt and Great Red Spot was taken on Dec. 30, 2020.
Image knowledge: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSSImage processing: Navaneeth Krishnan S CC BY

Despite shrinking over the previous few a long time, the Great Red Spot continues to be wider than Earth’s diameter. So the storm itself is considerably pancake-shaped — only a thicker pancake than scientists had anticipated. For context, Jupiter’s stripes, the brown-red belts and whitish zones, lengthen a lot deeper, all the way down to about 3,000 km, or about 4% of the way to the core.

Nevertheless, the sudden depth implies that the pumpkin-colored vortex is rooted beneath the water condensation layer, certainly beneath your complete cloud layer, and nicely beneath the attain of daylight. The discovering offers scientists meals for thought as they puzzle over the mechanisms which may drive the storm.

Storms Aplenty

Before Image After Image

The seen view was captured by the Wide Field Camera 3 on the Hubble Space Telescope, whereas the infrared picture comes from the Near-Infrared Imager (NIRI) on the Gemini North telescope in Hawaiʻi. The photographs proven right here, taken on January 11, 2017, have been half of an extended marketing campaign to trace climate patterns on the planet.

While the obvious of Jupiter’s storms, the Great Red Spot is way from the one one. Amateur astronomers can see on the order of 100 storm-like options on the king of planets, and Juno’s close-up view reveals on the order of 1,000 cyclones and anti-cyclones, pop-up clouds, and brown barges dotting the planet’s floor.

In a separate article within the October twenty eighth Science, Juno’s principal investigator Scott Bolton (Southwest Research Institute) and colleagues confirmed that these different swirls on Jupiter can even run deep, although not as deep because the Great Red Spot. They lengthen to common depths of 100 km.

Layers of brown barge cyclone at Jupiter
The arrows on the color-enhanced picture at left depict the anticyclonic rotation of a brown oval area generally known as a “brown barge.” At proper, the group probed layers beneath the storm utilizing Juno’s microwave radiometer (the highest layer is a visual gentle picture). The barge goes from being cooler than its environment within the high layers to being hotter than its environment towards the underside.
Image knowledge: NASA / JPL-Caltech / SwRI / MSSS; Image processing: Gerald Eichstädt CC BY

However, Bolton famous at NASA’s press convention that the Great Red Spot shouldn’t be essentially the deepest of all of storms — the long-lasting cyclones at Jupiter’s poles may be in competitors for the title.

“Jupiter’s cyclones affect each other’s motion, causing them to oscillate about an equilibrium position,” says Juno co-investigator Alessandro Mura (National Institute for Astrophysics in Rome). “The behavior of these slow oscillations suggests that they have deep roots.” Mura led a research of the polar cyclones that appeared within the July twenty eighth Geophysical Research Letters.

The measurements point out that every one the storms, not simply the Great Red Spot, are rooted in areas out of attain of daylight and the water condensation cycle, two processes identified to drive storms on Earth. There may be small-scale processes at work, reminiscent of vertical winds or rain or hail of one thing apart from pure water. The storms’ depths may also point out that the highest climate layer is related in some way to the planet’s inside.

Fortunately, the Juno mission ought to have a lot extra time to discover the mysteries inside Jupiter. After greater than 5 years orbiting the enormous planet, and with 37 shut passes below its belt thus far, it’s prepared for extra.

NASA lately accredited an extended mission that can take Juno to September 2025 if all holds up. So far the spacecraft is doing nicely regardless of the harmful energetic-particle atmosphere inside Jupiter’s magnetosphere, partly because of the longer and wider orbits than have been initially deliberate. Bolton provides with a smile, “The shields are holding.”


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