NASA has released a spectacular new image of Jupiter’s iconic Great Red Spot—a vast storm that's larger than the Earth—and the turbulent zones that surround it.
The bird's-eye-view photo was captured by the space agency’s Juno spacecraft, which has been orbiting the gas giant since July 2016.
The image is actually a combination of three separate photos taken on April 1, during Juno’s 12th flyby of the planet, when the spacecraft was between 15,379 and 30,633 miles (24,749 and 49,299 kilometers) above Jupiter’s cloud tops and at a latitude of between 43.2 and 62.1 degrees south.
The raw images were processed by two citizen scientists, Gerald Eichstädt and Seán Doran, who enhanced the colors. (All of Juno’s images are uploaded raw to www.missionjuno.swri.edu/junocam.)
The Great Red Spot, which is located about 22 degrees south of the planet’s equator, has been continually observed since 1830, although a handful of earlier sightings suggest it may have been active since at least 1655. It measures more than 10,000 miles across, making it around 1.3 times the size of the Earth.
While the storm has lasted for hundreds of years, it has grown significantly smaller in size in the past century. At present, it is unclear if this trend will continue or if this variation is normal. Some researchers have even speculated that the storm is nearing its end.
Juno’s primary mission is set to come to an end on July 16 after it completes its 14th flyby. After this, NASA will have to decide whether to extend the spacecraft’s mission or conclude its journey by intentionally crashing it into Jupiter.
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