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NASA video flies you through Jupiter's Great Red Spot

13 Décembre 2017

While the Great Red Spot has been monitored by the astronauts since 1830, the storm is believed to have appeared on the planet's surface since some 350 years. For that, we need to turn to a fascinating computer-animated video that uses NASA data to imagine what it would be like to soar through Jupiter's raucous atmosphere.

"Juno data indicate that the solar system's most famous storm is nearly one-and-a-half Earths wide, and has roots that penetrate about 200 miles (300 kilometers) into the planet's atmosphere", says Juno principal investigator Scott Bolton. "It is proving to be an excellent instrument to help us get to the bottom of what makes the Great Red Spot so great". And, according to NASA, it moves with wind speeds "greater than any storm on earth". The conclusions were presented this week at the American Geophysical Union.

Juno co-investigator Andy Ingersoll said that "Juno determined that the Red Spot's roots go 50 to 100 times deeper than Earth's seas and are hotter at the base than they are at the top".

As striking as images of the Great Red Spot are, videos and animation show a swirling soup that's even more mesmerizing. "Winds are combined with variations in temperature, and the warmth of the spot's base describes the fierce winds we see at the top of the atmosphere".

The second radiation zone is much closer to the planet's surface and lies near the equator.

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"The closer you get to Jupiter, the weirder it gets", said Heidi Becker, Juno's radiation monitoring investigator at JPL. "We knew the radiation would probably surprise us, but we didn't think we'd find a new radiation zone that close to the planet". Other revelations from the mission include that Jupiter has two previously uncharted radiation zones.

NASA's Juno spacecraft is orbiting Jupiter. Extremely high noise signatures were detected by Juno's Stellar Reference Unit (SRU-1) in the images collected by the team's radiation monitoring investigation as the craft passed through Jupiter's electron radiation belt. Energetic hydrogen, oxygen and sulphur ions whip around at the speed of the light close to the planet.

The Juno probe has conducted eight scientific flybys over Jupiter, dipping its trajectory across the gas giant's upper atmosphere. The spacecraft arrived in orbit around Jupiter in summer 2016 and has since performed looping orbits that take it skimming between Jupiter's cloud tops and radiation belts once every 53 days.

When the Juno probe launched in 2011, the main question that researchers were looking to answer was how deep are the Giant Red Spot's roots, and now this question has been partially answered.

NASA video flies you through Jupiter's Great Red Spot