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The big picture: It’s been more than five years since NASA’s Juno spacecraft entered Jupiter’s orbit. In that time, Juno has provided astronomers and scientists with a wealth of information about the gas giant, some of which was recently made public for the first time through a series of published journals.
Since entering Jupiter’s orbit, Juno has made 37 passes of the planet to date. Each time, the craft utilizes a set of specialized instruments to learn more about the largest planet in our solar system.
The spacecraft’s microwave radiometer (MWR), for example, was used to look beneath Jupiter’s cloud tops and study the structure of the numerous storms that rage on across the planet. From this data, scientists were able to determine that standard cyclones are warmer on top, colder at the bottom and have lower atmospheric densities. Anticyclones, like the Great Red Spot that rotate in the opposite direction, are colder up top and warmer on the bottom.
Data further revealed that some of the storms on Jupiter are much taller than expected, with some extending 60 miles below the cloud tops. Others, like the Great Red Spot, stretch for more than 200 miles.
NASA earlier this year extended the mission of Juno (along with InSight) through September 2025, or the end of its life, whichever comes first, during which it will further study the planet and its rings and moons.