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NASA’s Webb Telescope to Unravel Jupiter’s Great Red Spot Mystery

They will be able to observe infrared wavelengths that could shed light on what causes the spot's iconic colour

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NASA solar probe launch delayed. Pixabay
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NASAs James Webb Space Telescope will use its unparalleled infrared capabilities to study Jupiters Great Red Spot, shedding new light on the enigmatic storm, the US space agency said.

Led by Leigh Fletcher, a senior research fellow from the University of Leicester, the scientists plan to use Webb’s mid-infrared instrument (MIRI) to create multispectral maps of the Great Red Spot and analyse its thermal, chemical and cloud structures.

They will be able to observe infrared wavelengths that could shed light on what causes the spot’s iconic colour.

The colour has often been attributed to the sun’s ultraviolet radiation interacting with nitrogen, sulfur and phosphorus-bearing chemicals that are lifted from Jupiter’s deeper atmosphere by powerful atmospheric currents within the storm.

Fletcher explained that using MIRI to observe in the 5 to 7 micrometer range could be particularly revealing for the Great Red Spot, as observations in such wavelengths are not possible from Earth.

Those wavelengths of light could allow the scientists to see unique chemical byproducts of the storm, which would give insight into its composition.

jupiter
Jupiter. Pixabay

“We’ll be looking for signatures of any chemical compounds that are unique to the (Great Red Spot) … which could be responsible for the red chromophores,” Fletcher noted.

Chromophores are the parts of molecules responsible for their colour.

Webb’s observations may also help determine whether the Great Red Spot is generating heat and releasing it into Jupiter’s upper atmosphere, a phenomenon that could explain the high temperatures in that region.

Generations of astronomers have studied the Great Red Spot; the storm has been monitored since 1830, but it has possibly existed for more than 350 years.

Also Read: NASA’s Curiosity Rover Captures Images of Martian Dust Storm

The reason for the storm’s longevity largely remains a mystery, and Fletcher explained that the key to understanding the formation of storms on Jupiter is to witness their full life cycle — growing, shrinking, and eventually dying.

We did not see the Great Red Spot form, and it may not die anytime soon (though it has been shrinking, as documented by images from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and other observatories), so scientists must rely on observing “smaller and fresher” storms on the planet to see how they begin and evolve, something that Webb may do in the future, said Fletcher. (IANS)

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Parker Solar Probe Working As Planned: NASA Mission Controllers

Further instrument check-outs and deployments are scheduled in the coming days for the spacecraft.

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Several other designs on the spacecraft keep Parker Solar Probe sheltered from the heat. Flickr

NASA ‘s historic mission to solve the mysteries of the Sun which was launched aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket on August 12 is operating according to plan, mission controllers have said.

As of 12 p.m. EDT on August 16, the Parker Solar Probe was 4.6 million kms from Earth, travelling at 62,764 kms per hour, and heading toward its first Venus flyby scheduled for October 3, 2018, Geoff Brown of Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab, or APL, in Maryland, wrote in a NASA blog post on Friday.

The spacecraft will use Venus to slightly slow itself and adjust its trajectory for an optimal path toward the first perihelion of the Sun on November 5 this year.

“Parker Solar Probe is operating as designed, and we are progressing through our commissioning activities,” said Project Manager Andy Driesman of APL.

This solar probe is humanity’s first-ever mission into the Sun’s atmosphere, called the corona. Here it will directly explore solar processes that are key to understanding and forecasting space weather events that can impact life on Earth.

The mission has already achieved several planned milestones toward full commissioning and operations, according to the mission controllers.

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NASA’s Parker Solar Probe in Space. (IANS)

On August 13, the high-gain antenna, which Parker Solar Probe uses to communicate high-rate science data to Earth, was released from locks which held it stable during launch.

Controllers have also been monitoring the spacecraft as it autonomously uses its thrusters to remove (or “dump”) momentum, which is part of the flight operations of the spacecraft.

Managing momentum helps the spacecraft remain in a stable and optimal flight profile.

There are four instrument suites on board Parker Solar Probe, which will each need to be powered and readied for science data collection.

The FIELDS investigation, which consists of the most elements, went first. It was powered up on August 13 for two activities, Brown said.

First was the opening of the clamps which held four of the five FIELDS antennas stowed during takeoff.

These antennas will be deployed roughly 30 days after launch, and they will stick out from the corners of the spacecraft’s heat shield called the Thermal Protection System and be exposed to the harsh solar environment.

Parker solar probe
The spacecraft, launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. IANS

Second, the spacecraft’s magnetometer boom was fully deployed. This boom contains three magnetometers and a fifth, smaller electric field antenna, all part of the FIELDS suite.

Also Read: India will Send a Manned Flight into Space by 2020: Modi

Further instrument check-outs and deployments are scheduled in the coming days for the spacecraft, Brown said. (IANS)