MIAMI • An unmanned Nasa spacecraft flew over a massive storm raging on Jupiter yesterday, in a long-awaited journey that could shed new light on the forces driving the planet's Great Red Spot.
Nasa said the fly-by of the Juno spacecraft, surveying the 16,000km-wide storm, had been scheduled at 9.55pm on Monday (9.55am yesterday Singapore time). But the US space agency tweeted yesterday that images from the spacecraft will not be available until Friday.
"Jupiter's mysterious Great Red Spot is probably the best-known feature of Jupiter," said Dr Scott Bolton, principal investigator of Juno from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio.
"This monumental storm has raged on the solar system's biggest planet for centuries."
The storm looks like a churning red knot on the planet's surface. It has been monitored since 1830, and may have existed for more than 350 years, the US space agency said.
Juno, which earlier this month marked its first year in orbit of the gas giant, will offer "humanity's first up-close and personal view of the gigantic feature", Nasa said in a statement.
Equipped with instruments that can penetrate clouds to measure how deep the roots of this storm go, scientists hope to learn more about the workings of the raging tempest.
All eight of Juno's instruments, including its camera, were to be on when the spacecraft passed about 9,000km above the Giant Red Spot clouds, Nasa said.
Juno was launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, in August 2011, on a mission to learn more about Jupiter's origins, structure, atmosphere and magnetosphere.