What Has Happened to Jupiter?

I’m sure each and every one of us who has watched the skies will have turned the scope towards Jupiter at some stage.Depending on the power of your telescope, you may or may not have been able to see the Great Red Spot which is a well known feature of the planet. Most of us however should have spotted those 2 dark parallel lines which cross over the surface of Jupiter .

The New Look of Jupiter (Click to Enlarge)

These of course are the Northern and Southern Equatorial belts of Jupiter.

Last year we saw Jupiter in the evening, but then it disappeared from Sydney’s night skies for a while. Now it is rising around 1am Sydney time. But have you looked at Jupiter recently? Somehow it looks a little different.

If you look at the first picture above you will see what that change is. The Southern Equatorial Belt which runs through the Great Red spot has completely disappeared while Jupiter was not visible from Sydney.

Now this disappearing act is not new as it has happened before. It occoured back in 1973 as well as in the 90’s. Based on these previous disappearances by the southern belt, we should see it re-emerge in the next few weeks or months.

The Great Red Spot of Jupiter (Click to Enlarge)

But an interesting thought comes to mind. If the southern belt has disappeared, does that mean the Great Red Spot has disappeared too?

The answer is no….. the Great Red Spot is still there as seen in the 2nd picture. But how is this so?  Why would the southern band go missing but not the Great Red Spot. I think astronomers are still trying to work out what is happening here as this event happens every 3 to 15 years on Jupiter.

Since this new face of Jupiter is for a strictly limited time…… try to get out with your scope in the early hours of the morning and have a look at this different view of Jupiter.

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~ by sydneystargazers on June 5, 2010.

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