NASA’s plucky Juno probe has returned its first close-up photographs of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, and they are stunning.
On Monday, Juno flew about 5,600 miles above the mysterious tempest — more than a million miles closer than any previous spacecraft has flown.
The Great Red Spot is a massive storm about twice as wide as Earth. It has tumbled in the planet’s atmosphere for at least 350 years.
Juno took the new photos on it’s seventh pass around the gas giant planet. The spacecraft swings by Jupiter once every 53.5 days, at speeds approaching 130,000 mph, which makes such close-ups very hard to capture.
After each flyby, NASA provides JunoCam’s raw image data to the public, and a community of amateurs and professionals turn the muted, unprocessed photos into striking color images.
Below are fresh images of the Great Red Spot, along with some other unbelievable shots from previous flybys.
“This monumental storm has raged on the solar system’s biggest planet for centuries,” Scott Bolton, the Juno mission’s leader, said in a NASA statement.
At its closest point, Juno flew so close the Great Red Spot that it couldn’t capture the whole thing in one view. The image below shows the approximate angle that JunoCam was able to see at that point.
Making the task even more challenging: The probe zoomed by at about 34 miles per second. That’s speedy enough to traverse the continental US in a little more than a minute.
As a result, JunoCam strafed the planet with a series of images.
Getting within a cosmic breath of the storm allowed Juno to beam back images that show the Great Red Spot in unprecedented detail, like the ones below.