Thousands of gas storms swirl across Jupiter. One in particular captivates scientists. Did you know that Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is actually an enormous storm that’s been violently churning for decades or more? (It was first observed in 1831.) The giant spot is so big that it could swallow Earth whole. New scientific data says Jupiter’s red spot is probably much deeper than anyone previously imagined.
Jupiter is not a rocky planet like Earth. Its surface is made of gas—mostly hydrogen and helium. Scientists don’t yet know if it has a solid core or a center of more concentrated gases, like a soupy mass. The largest planet in the solar system, Jupiter has a strong gravitational pull. It has sucked whole comets into itself leaving not craters (like the ones space debris creates on the Moon) but simply discolored scars on the gaseous surface. Some astronomers think Jupiter’s gravity draws space junk away from Earth, protecting life here.
Determined to learn about the Giant Red Spot, NASA launched its Juno spacecraft to survey the monstrous storm. Juno has flown over Jupiter twice, collecting data: once in February 2019 and a second time in July 2019.
The gigantic Great Red Spot is 10,000 miles wide. Three-dimensional imagery of the storm makes it appear flat, like a pancake. But data collected by Juno tell scientists that the storm isn’t flat at all. In fact, it is deeper than they thought. It appears to be 200 to 300 miles deep.
Scott Bolton of Southwest Research Institute studies the Great Red Spot. He explains, “It probably fades out gradually and keeps going down.” He continues, “I wouldn’t want to be too quick to guess that we’ve seen the deepest [storm]. But the Great Red Spot is the largest . . . and you might expect that it might be deeper just because of that.” Bolton says there might not even be a clear cutoff at the bottom of the storm as it continues into the gas giant’s center.
Tools on Juno measure gravitational pull from the storm and the planet’s own gravity field. This data will help scientists understand the giant gas and its whirling tempests. A microwave device measures the planet’s temperatures. Scientists like Bolton will create heat maps from that microwave data. That will explain more about the planet’s mysterious depths.
Behold, to the Lord your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the Earth with all that is in it. Yet the Lord set His heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them. — Deuteronomy 10:14-15
Why? New scientific data helps us see the intentionality and creativity of the Master Designer. Studying His space wonders draws us like gravity toward our Creator.