Juno to fly over Jupiter's Great Red Spot
The Juno spacecraft is due to fly over Jupiter's Great Red Spot, giving scientists an unprecedented view of the Gas Giant's raging storm.
NASA’s Juno spacecraft will mark one year in orbit around Jupiter by flying over the Gas Giant’s Great Red Spot on 10 July. Juno will provide scientists with the first ever close-up view of the 16,000km-wide storm during its sixth flyby over Jupiter’s cloud tops.
The manoeuvre will occur shortly after ‘perijove’; the point in an orbit around Jupiter that is closest to the planet.
During perijove, Juno will come as close as 3,500 km above Jupiter’s cloud tops.
It will then be another eleven minutes and 33 seconds before Juno travels a further 39,771km to pass directly above the Great Red Spot, just 9,000 km above its clouds.
The Great Red Spot is a raging storm with winds as fast as 950 km per hour.
It has been observed from Earth since the 19th century, and has probably existed much longer than that.
But scientists still are not completely sure how the storm operates.
It is hoped that data and images captured by Jupiter with its JunoCam and other instruments will shine light on the inner workings of the spot.
"This monumental storm has raged on the solar system's biggest planet for centuries," says Scott Bolton, Juno principal investigator.
"Now, Juno and her cloud-penetrating science instruments will dive in to see how deep the roots of this storm go, and help us understand how this giant storm works and what makes it so special."
The pass over the Great Red Spot will come just after Juno’s first anniversary in Jupiter orbit on 4 July at 19:30 PDT (5 July at 02:30 UTC).
At that time, the spacecraft will have travelled 114.5 million km in orbit around the Gas Giant.
See NASA scientists discussing Jupiter's science results in the video below.
A replay of a NASA conference in which scientists from the Juno mission discuss the first science results from the mission.
The conference occurred on 25 May 2017.
Iain Todd is BBC Sky at Night Magazine's Staff Writer. He fell in love with the night sky when he caught his first glimpse of Orion, aged 10.