NASA’s Juno spacecraft successfully completed a daredevil mission over Jupiter’s Great Red Spot on July 10, collecting intimate data about the Jovian landmark in the process. All science instruments, including the JunoCam, were operational during the close flyby, NASA said Tuesday.
“For generations, people from all over the world and all walks of life have marveled over the Great Red Spot,” said Scott Bolton, principal investigator of Juno. “Now we are finally going to see what this storm looks like up close and personal.”
The flyby was Juno’s most daring mission since arriving at Jupiter one year ago; the spacecraft has logged a mind-blowing 71 million miles since it began orbiting the gas giant.
Here’s NASA’s spectacular play-by-play of how events unfolded:
Juno reached perijove (the point at which an orbit comes closest to Jupiter’s center) on July 10 at 6:55 p.m. PDT (9:55 p.m. EDT). At the time of perijove, Juno was about 2,200 miles (3,500 kilometers) above the planet’s cloud tops. Eleven minutes and 33 seconds later, Juno had covered another 24,713 miles (39,771 kilometers), and was passing directly above the coiling crimson cloud tops of the Great Red Spot. The spacecraft passed about 5,600 miles (9,000 kilometers) above the clouds of this iconic feature.
The storm, a 10,000-mile-wide beast, has existed for more than 350 years, according to NASA. Not only do scientists hope to learn about what makes the storm storm tick, but why it appears to be shrinking.
NASA said it expect to post raw images of the flyby in the coming days, followed by another close encounter with the planet on September 1.