NASA’s Juno probe continues to beam back stunning pictures of Jupiter and its turbulent atmosphere. One of the latest shows the Great Red Spot in an image captured 21 December during the spacecraft’s most recent close approach. The photo also shows another large storm, dubbed Oval BA, that reached its current size when three smaller storms collided and merged together in 2000. Oval BA has changed shape over the years and changed from reddish brown to a more uniform white, according to NASA. This colour view is made up of three images captured when Juno was between about 23,800 miles to 34,500 miles above Jupiter’s cloud tops. The image was processed by citizen-scientists Gerald Eichstädt and Seán Doran.
Astronomers from Boston University have discovered that Jupiter’s Great Red Spot (GRS) may provide the mysterious source of energy required to heat the planet’s upper atmosphere to the unusually high values observed. Heating in Jupiter’s atmosphere 500 miles above the GRS is thought to be caused by gravity waves and acoustic waves creating turbulent atmospheric flows.
NASA’s Juno spacecraft is barreling toward a rendezvous with Jupiter after a 2.8 billion kilometre (1.7-billion-mile), five-year trip from planet Earth. The research probe’s main engine will ignite for 35 minutes to maneuver Juno into orbit, and engineers expect to receive confirmation of burn’s start at 0318 GMT Tuesday.
The impact of a small comet or asteroid on Jupiter observed by European amateur astronomers on 17 March has heightened interest in the solar system’s largest planet. While such an event is uncommon, Jupiter and its family of four bright Galilean moons provide a wealth of other interesting phenomena to view with small telescopes during April.