New Delhi: In its sixth science orbit, NASA's Juno spacecraft successfully flew over Jupiter's iconic Great Red Spot on July 10, coming closer to the gas giant than any other spacecraft has ever been before and providng humanity first up-close view of this mysterious 10,000-mile-wide storm.
As per NASA, 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.
During the flyby, all of Juno's science instruments and the spacecraft's JunoCam were operating, collecting data that are now being returned to Earth.
NASA says raw images from Juno’s latest flyby of the gas giant will be posted in coming days.
"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 from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. "Now we are finally going to see what this storm looks like up close and personal."
The Great Red Spot is a 10,000-mile-wide (16,000-kilometer-wide) storm that has been monitored since 1830 and has possibly existed for more than 350 years. The Great Red Spot, which is 1.3 times as wide as Earth, has appeared to be shrinking in modern times.
By peering deep into the planet's deep red heart, scientists believe Juno may help them understand how this gian storm works and why it's shrinking.
Juno's next close flyby of Jupiter will occur on September 1.
Launched on August 5, 2011, from Cape Canaveral, Florida, Juno logged exactly one year in Jupiter orbit on July 4 at 7:30 p.m. PDT (10:30 p.m. EDT), marking 71 million miles of travel around the giant planet.