Juno spacecraft completes close flyby of Jupiter and its Great Red Spot
Nasa's Juno spacecraft has completed a close flyby of Jupiter and its Great Red Spot, which is a 16,000km-wide storm that has been monitored since 1830.
During the flyby, which was carried out during the probe’s sixth science orbit, the spacecraft’s instruments collected data and images to be sent back to Earth.
Southwest Research Institute Juno principal investigator Scott Bolton said: “For generations, people from all over the world and all walks of life have marvelled over the Great Red Spot.
“Now we are finally going to see what this storm looks like, up close and personal.”
Before completing the latest flyby, Juno first reached perijove, which is the point when an orbit comes closest to Jupiter's centre.
When at perijove, Juno was nearly 3,500km above the planet's cloud tops.
It then took 11min and 33s for Juno to cover another 39,771km to pass directly above the crimson cloud tops of the Great Red Spot.
This month saw the spacecraft complete one year in Jupiter orbit, marking 71 million miles of travel around the planet.
Since its launch in 2011 from Cape Canaveral, Florida, US, Juno has been undertaking various exploration missions to know more about the planet’s origins, structure, atmosphere and magnetosphere.
Currently managed by Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) on behalf of Scott Bolton, the mission is part of the New Frontiers Programme managed by Nasa's Marshall Space Flight Centre in Alabama, and is expecting to undertake its next close flyby of Jupiter in September.
Source: An illustration depicting Nasa's Juno spacecraft soaring over Jupiter's south pole. Image: courtesy of Nasa.