Emily LakdawallaNov 22, 2010

Jupiter's outbreak is spreading

Jupiter, always a pretty sight in the sky, is now worth visiting every day; the "outbreak" that heralds the return of Jupiter's formerly red, now faded south equatorial belt is expanding and multiplying. I'm no astronomer myself, so I look over the shoulders of amateurs to watch all of this action unfold. Here's one recent photo showing the outbreak at 20:08 UT on November 20. It appears as a series of dark comma-like structures in the south equatorial belt; the south pole is up in this image.

Jupiter on November 20, 2010: Outbreak!
Jupiter on November 20, 2010: Outbreak! In November 2010, Jupiter's south equatorial belt, which had been faded into whiteness for a year, developed an "outbreak" of activity.Image: Teruaki Kumamori, Sakai City, Osaka, Japan

Here's a fun animation of different amateurs' images of the development of the outbreak over a period of 12 days. It starts as a single point, but seems to throw off a curl of dark cloud and generate a new bright cloud twice.

Animation of Jupiter's SEB outbreak, November 9-20
Animation of Jupiter's SEB outbreak, November 9-20 Christopher Go used WinJUPOS to create an animation of the development of Jupiter's south equatorial belt "outbreak" over 12 days, from November 9 to 20, 2010.Image: Christopher Go, Don Parker, Emil Kraaikamp and Freddy Willems

Meanwhile, the opposite face of Jupiter is nearly as exciting, with white ovals, red storms, and all kinds of other stuff going on. I have no idea what that discontinuous line of red blobs is to the north of the North Equatorial Belt (at the bottom left of this image). I invite knowledgeable readers to comment and explain!

Jupiter on November 20, 2010: The other side
Jupiter on November 20, 2010: The other side On the opposite side of Jupiter from its new outbreak, the Little Red Spot remains red with a white center and turbulent dark clouds to its east, with many white ovals to its south. South is up in this image; the Great Red Spot just peeks over the terminator on the right (west).Image: Christopher Go, Cebu, Philippines

Clearly there's going to be a lot more action on Jupiter this week; which is of course when I will be traveling to visit family for Thanksgiving. If you'd like to watch it unfold, blogger Daniel Fischer and astronomer Leigh Fletcher both have informative Tweets on Jupiter's status. Daniel just posted a blog entry rounding up numerous recent Jupiter photos (which is how I found that nifty animation by Christopher Go), and Leigh has reported recently that both Gemini north and south telescopes as well as the VLT have successfully acquired infrared maps of the action. Stay tuned for developments!

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