Emily LakdawallaMar 25, 2011

Checking in on Jupiter: the belt is coming back

Since it's been several months since I last took a look at Jupiter, I thought it was time to see what's up with the South Equatorial Belt. For those of you who may have forgotten, Jupiter typically has two dark red stripes crossing its belly, the North and South Equatorial Belts. In early 2010, though, the South Equatorial Belt faded to white. This is an event that has happened 14 times in the last century, and it usually takes about a year for the belt to come back. Its return started last November and spread quickly. It's getting increasingly difficult to get good photos of Jupiter as it's getting lower and lower in the western horizon after sunset, but it's clear that the formerly pale South Equatorial Belt is much, much redder now:

Jupiter on February 11, 2011
Jupiter on February 11, 2011 Following the November 2010 outbreak, Jupiter's South Equatorial Belt has been growing redder with time. Christopher Go, Cebu, Philippines

Compare this to Christopher Go's view last November and the difference is quite obvious:

Jupiter on November 9, 2010: Outbreak?
Jupiter on November 9, 2010: Outbreak? Christopher Go

If you'd like to see other amateur photos of Jupiter to watch how the belt is coming back to life, I highly recommend the image library at the Planetary Virtual Observatory & Laboratory.

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