Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is not just a skin-deep beauty mark. Instead, the iconic storm descends at least 200 miles beneath the clouds and possibly much deeper. That is one of the latest findings of NASA’s Juno spacecraft, which passed directly over the storm in July. Juno is designed to peer beneath the clouds of Jupiter, the solar system’s largest planet, and its observations have upended scientists’ notions of how a big ball of hydrogen ought to behave. They have not yet come up with a new understanding of Jupiter. “We just know enough to know we were wrong,” said Scott Bolton, a scientist at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas, who is the mission’s principal investigator. The Juno scientists presented their latest findings at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union in New Orleans. Before Juno, astronomers could only observe the swirling of the cloud tops in the Great Red Spot, which is 10,000 miles wide — large enough to swallow Earth.
Mystery of sky diver’s high speed is solved
Scientists say they’ve figured out why an Austrian who became the first sky diver to break the speed of sound fell faster than the drag of his body should have allowed. Felix Baumgartner jumped from the stratosphere 24 miles above Earth on Oct. 14, 2012, and landed safely on the ground near Roswell, N.M., nine minutes later. Baumgartner, whose protective suit and backpack gave him a very irregular shape, reached speeds of up to 843.6 mph — higher than scientists had expected even for smooth objects in free fall. In a paper published by the journal PLOS One, researchers from Munich’s Technical University said irregular shapes appear to reduce the aerodynamic drag that increases as objects near the sound barrier.