JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4)– Scientists at Lockheed Martin in Littleton are receiving the best images ever recorded of Jupiter’s ‘great red spot.’
The aerospace company’s solar-powered spacecraft “Juno” has been taking images of the planet since reaching its orbit on July 4, 2016.
On Tuesday, Juno finished its seventh pass around the gas giant.
The latest orbit, which took 53 days, captured close, clear images of the planet’s great red spot.
The photos show the spot that scientist previously believed to be a single storm is, in reality, made up of many storms.
“We see that actually, (the great red spot) is made up of a whole bunch of storms. It’s almost like a storm of storms,” said Jason Dates, certified principle engineer of the Juno spacecraft.
Dates works in the mission support center where a team is remotely flying the massive machine that looks like a giant fidget-spinner.
Designed, built and tested at Lockheed Martin’s Littleton facility in 2009, Juno was launched in 2011. It took five years to reach Jupiter’s orbit.
While the mission has shed light on the great red spot, what makes up the planet’s core, as of yet, remains a mystery.
The more that scientists learn about Jupiter, says Dates, the more they will discover about the origins of our solar system.
And Juno’s team members feel fortunate to be a part of its mission.
“It’s just amazing to get to see the fruits of your labor,” Dates said. “It’s really like the highlight of any engineer’s career.”
The spacecraft will have made 32 orbits when the mission ends in 2021, taking enough pictures to map out the entire planet.