Microwave devices on NASA’s Juno spacecraft help scientists create heat maps. (NASA)

Microwave devices on NASA’s Juno spacecraft help scientists create heat maps. (NASA)

Jupiter’s iconic Great Red Spot (NASA)

Jupiter’s iconic Great Red Spot (NASA)

This image of Jupiter is made from photographs taken by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft in 2000. The spacecraft was approximately 6.2 million miles away. (NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute via AP)

This image of Jupiter is made from photographs taken by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft in 2000. The spacecraft was approximately 6.2 million miles away. (NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute via AP)

This illustration shows the Juno spacecraft above the planet Jupiter. (NASA/JPL-Caltech via AP)

This illustration shows the Juno spacecraft above the planet Jupiter. (NASA/JPL-Caltech via AP)

Data Controller Nick Lam monitors Juno inside at Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. (AP/Richard Vogel)

Data Controller Nick Lam monitors Juno inside at Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. (AP/Richard Vogel)

The Never-Ending Storm

Posted: January 1, 2022

Thousands of storms churn on Jupiter all the time. They make beautiful, colorful swirls across the gas planet. One of those storms is bigger than the others. It’s the famous Great Red Spot that can be seen through strong telescopes on Earth. Now scientists know more about the monster storm that is so large it could swallow the Earth. The giant storm is deeper than anyone ever thought.

The gigantic Great Red Spot is about 10,000 miles wide! It’s also between 200 and 300 miles deep. Three-dimensional photographs of the storm show that it looks like a flat pancake. But new scientific data proves that that storm is anything but flat. Scientists think there might not be a hard cutoff at the bottom of the storm. That’s possible because Jupiter is a “gas giant.” It might not have a rocky mantle or molten core like Earth. The part that can be seen is made of hydrogen gas.

Scott Bolton of Southwest Research Institute studies the Great Red Spot. “It probably fades out gradually and keeps going down,” he says. His team is using NASA’s Juno spacecraft to gather information about Jupiter’s storms.

Juno helps scientists peek through the gas planet’s thick clouds. The spacecraft has flown over the spot twice. Tools on Juno gather data. They measure the enormous storm and the gravity field around the planet. That information may help scientists figure out how deep the Great Red Spot is.

A microwave device on Juno captures the planet’s temperatures. The microwave data helps scientists create heat maps. They will study the maps as they try to calculate the Great Red Spot’s depth.

“I wouldn’t want to be too quick to guess,” Mr. Bolton told reporters about the scientists’ studies. “The Great Red Spot is the largest and that makes it special by itself. And you might expect that it might be deeper just because of that.”

Juno has orbited the solar system’s largest planet since 2016. NASA recently decided to extend the mission until 2025.

Why? Scientists are sometimes surprised by new discoveries, but God is never surprised. He created Jupiter and its storm, and He knows exactly how deep it really is!