Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is one of the most iconic objects in the solar system. Now, for the first time, the famous Great Red Spot – actually a massive constant planetary storm – has been measured for the very first time in a study conducted by the Weizmann Institute of Science.
The project, in collaboration with NASA’s Juno mission to Jupiter, found that the spot extends to a depth of nearly 500 kilometers below Jupiter’s cloud cover. The finding is one of several major revelations by the Weizmann and NASA team published Thursday in academic journals Science and Geophysical Research Letters.
Years before the Juno space probe entered Jupiter’s orbit in 2016, Weizmann Professor Yohai Kaspi’s team began looking into the possibility of using the project’s data to calculate the mass of the Great Red Spot.
“We proposed an ambitious experiment that wasn’t part of Juno’s original program, but we thought that with a flyby above the Great Red Spot dedicated to gravity measurements, it could work,” Kaspi said in a statement.
The project used an “innovative method” that Kaspi and team member Dr. Eli Galanti developed that analyzes the structure of planetary winds using gravity calculations.
To execute the experiment, Juno passed two extra times around Jupiter. Seven years later, the probe’s precise measurements of Jupiter’s gravity field allowed the Weizmann scientists to determine the mass and depth of the Great Red Spot.
“The Great Red Spot was discovered over two centuries ago, but until now we’ve only known what it looks like from the outside,” Galanti said. “Now we have, for the first time, revealed its structure and determined its depth.”
Team member and lead author Dr. Marzia Parisi added: “To get an idea of its dimensions, if a storm of the same size started on the surface of Earth, it would extend all the way up to the International Space Station."
(Arutz Sheva’s North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)