Jupiter’s Great Red Spot — a massive storm that has lasted for hundreds of years — is shaped like a pancake that floats in the clouds of the gas giant’s outer atmosphere and does not reach its inner depth, according to new research on data from NASA’s Juno spacecraft. probe.
two new studies, published Thursday In Science, he provided the first accurate estimate of the depth of the Great Red Dot and showed that although it is deeper than expected, it does not extend as far into the planet’s atmosphere, as was previously seen.
Instead, it takes the form of a thin lens more than 10,000 miles wide, said Scott Bolton, lead author of one study and co-author of the other, although it may be fed by deeper gas gates. Bolton is director of the Department of Aerospace Science and Engineering at Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio and principal investigator for the Juno mission.
“It’s much wider than it is deep–it’s a bit like a pie,” he said. “The surprising part was that most of the models people played were pretty shallow.”
The space probe has been in orbit around Jupiter since 2016, assessing its chemical composition, measuring its gravitational and magnetic fields, and taking pictures of the planet and its many moons – 79 at last count.
Among her investigations is the nature of the Great Red Spot, which was first documented in the 19th century, but may have been seen before by 17th century astronomers, who reported seeing spots on Jupiter through telescopes.
It is often brick red – hence its name – but its color varies over weeks and months to salmon, yellow, gray, and even white. Scientists believe that its color may be the result of sunlight changing the chemical composition of clouds Ammonia, ammonium hydrosulfide and water It is probably made of.
Similar storms were seen between Jupiter’s characteristic lines, which were caused by rising or falling “jet streams” of winds as deep as 1,800 miles below the clouds. Many storms have been observed for years, but none have lasted as long as the Great Red Spot.
Astronomers report that it has been “flaking” for a few years, and may be getting smaller. But scientists believe that it will last for a long time, and recent research has found that The wind in the Great Red Spot is getting faster.
To study the Great Red Spot, the Juno probe was reoriented from its normal lateral orientation, so that the onboard microwave radiometer could better reveal the details of its vertical structure.
Juno also examined two other large storms in Jupiter’s atmosphere, one rotating counterclockwise like the Great Red Spot and one rotating in the opposite direction.
By comparing the details of the different storms, the researchers found that all three extended deeper into the atmosphere than they had expected, and that the Great Red Spot was the deepest.
The second study used minute differences in the Juno spacecraft’s orbit as it passed over the Great Red Spot to determine its mass.
Led by Marzia Baresi, a research scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, the study determined that the bulk of the Great Red Spot could extend no more than 300 miles below its visible surface.
Both studies confirm that the Great Red Spot is shaped almost like a pancake, visible above the cloud tops, but not as deep as inner Jupiter. The planet itself is about 90,000 miles in diameter.
said Timothy Dowling, a professor of dynamic meteorology at the University of Louisville in Kentucky, who was not involved in the new experiment’s studies. “Jupiter’s jet streams are deep and its great storms are shallow vortex lenses.”
It resembles the Great Red Spot and similar storms on Jupiter not by hurricanes on Earth driven by convection from the ocean surface, but by submerged ocean features called “MedisThe contraction of the ‘Mediterranean eddies’, as they transport salt-rich waters from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic.
Medians are gently swirling regions of water hundreds of feet below the surface of the ocean that can last for months, until it collides with a seamount on the ocean floor or a piece of land—neither of which is found on Jupiter, which is thought to consist primarily of gaseous hydrogen under extreme pressures that Metallic hydrogen formed thousands of miles deep, he said.
Although there is always the possibility that the Great Red Spot will break up one day, such a massive storm is likely to last for a very long time, perhaps hundreds or thousands of years. “It’s much simpler than a hurricane, and it has absolutely no reason to break up – it just goes on and on,” he said.