On Monday, NASA’s Juno spacecraft will fly over one of Jupiter’s most distinguishable and intriguing features, its Great Red Spot.
The Great Red Spot is actually a 10,000-mile-wide storm, meaning it could swallow Earth with 3,000 miles to spare. Scientists have been monitoring the storm for more than 100 years, and the swirling tempest may have started much earlier.
“This monumental storm has raged on the solar system’s biggest planet for centuries,” said Scott Bolton, principal investigator of Juno from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, in a press release. “Now, Juno and her cloud-penetrating science instruments will dive in to see how deep the roots of this storm go, and help us understand how this giant storm works and what makes it so special.”
At the time of Monday night’s flyby, Juno will be about 5,600 miles above the churning mass of clouds. The spacecraft launched in August 2011, and has orbited the gas giant for more than a year.
Scientists are hoping to learn more about how and where Jupiter formed and its composition, which in turn will help them better understand the hundreds of other giant exoplanets they’ve discovered circling other stars.
The Juno team tweeted that they expect to release new images on July 14:
— NASA's Juno Mission (@NASAJuno) July 10, 2017
In the meantime, enjoy some previously collected images from the JunoCam: