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NASA Spacecraft circling Jupiter Reveals Beauty of Solar System’s Biggest Planetary Storm

The images were clicked by NASA's spacecraft Juno, launched in 2011, that flew directly over Jupiter's Great Red Spot on Monday

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The Great Red Spot on Jupiter
The Great Red Spot on Jupiter is shown in this NASA Juno spacecraft photo released on July 12, 2017. VOA
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  • The up-close beauty of our solar system’s biggest planetary storm is being revealed by  NASA spacecraft
  • Juno flew directly over Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, passing an amazingly close 5,600 miles (9,000 kilometers) above the monster storm
  • Swirling clouds are clearly visible in the 10,000-mile-wide (16,000-kilometer-wide) storm, which is big enough to swallow Earth and has been around for centuries

Cape Canaveral, California, July 14, 2017: A NASA spacecraft circling Jupiter is revealing the up-close beauty of our solar system’s biggest planetary storm.

Juno flew directly over Jupiter’s Great Red Spot on Monday, passing an amazingly close 5,600 miles (9,000 kilometers) above the monster storm. The images snapped by JunoCam were beamed back Tuesday and posted online Wednesday. Then members of the public — so-called citizen scientists — were encouraged to enhance the raw images.

Swirling clouds are clearly visible in the 10,000-mile-wide (16,000-kilometer-wide) storm, which is big enough to swallow Earth and has been around for centuries.

“For hundreds of years scientists have been observing, wondering and theorizing about Jupiter’s Great Red Spot,” said lead researcher Scott Bolton of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. “Now we have the best pictures ever of this iconic storm.”

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Information was still arriving Thursday from Juno’s science instruments. Bolton said it will take the time to analyze everything to shed “new light on the past, present, and future of the Great Red Spot.”

Juno’s next close encounter with the giant gas planet will be in September. The Great Red Spot won’t be in Juno’s scopes then, however.

Launched in 2011, Juno arrived at Jupiter last July. It is only the second spacecraft to orbit the solar system’s largest planet, but is passing much closer than NASA’s Galileo did from 1995 through 2003. (VOA)

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NASA’s Curiosity Rover Captures Images of Martian Dust Storm

The last storm of global magnitude that enveloped Mars was in 2007, five years before Curiosity landed there

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NASA image.
NASA's Curiosity Rover Captures Images of Martian Dust Storm. Pixabay

With NASA engineers yet to make contact with the Opportunity Mars rover due to a massive storm on the Red Planet, scientists are pinning their hopes on learning more about Martian dust storms from images captured by the Curiosity probe.

As of Tuesday morning, the Martian dust storm had grown in size and was officially a “planet-encircling” (or “global”) dust event, NASA said in a statement on Wednesday.

Though Curiosity is on the other side of Mars from Opportunity, dust has steadily increased over it, more than doubling over the weekend, NASA said.

The US space agency said the Curiosity Rover this month used its Mast Camera, or Mastcam, to snap photos of the intensifying haziness of the surface of Mars caused by the massive dust storm.

For NASA’s human scientists watching from the ground, Curiosity offers an unprecedented window to answer some questions. One of the biggest: Why do some Martian dust storms last for months and grow massive, while others stay small and last only a week?

“We don’t have any good idea,” said Scott Guzewich, an atmospheric scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

Mars Rover
Mars Rover, Pixabay

Curiosity, he pointed out, plus a fleet of spacecraft in the orbit of Mars, will allow scientists for the first time to collect a wealth of dust information both from the surface and from space.

The last storm of global magnitude that enveloped Mars was in 2007, five years before Curiosity landed there.

The current storm has starkly increased dust at Gale Crater, where the Curiosity rover is studying the storm’s effects from the surface.

But it poses little risk to the Curiosity rover, said Curiosity’s engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

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However, there was still no signal from the Opportunity rover, although a recent analysis of the rover’s long-term survivability in Mars’ extreme cold suggests Opportunity’s electronics and batteries can stay warm enough to function.

Regardless, the project does not expect to hear from Opportunity until the skies begin to clear over the rover.

The dust storm is comparable in scale to a similar storm observed by Viking I in 1977, but not as big as the 2007 storm that Opportunity previously weathered. (IANS)