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Jupiter has lost one of its prominent stripes, leaving its southern half looking unusually blank. Scientists are not sure what triggered the disappearance of the band.
Jupiter's appearance is usually dominated by two dark bands in its atmosphere – one in the northern hemisphere and one in the southern hemisphere.
But recent images of Jupiter taken by amateur astronomers show that the southern band – called the south equatorial belt – has disappeared.
The band was present at the end of 2009, right before Jupiter moved too close to the sun in the sky to be observed from Earth. When the planet emerged from the sun's glare again in early April, its south equatorial belt was nowhere to be seen.
This is not the first time the south equatorial belt has disappeared. It was absent in 1973 when NASA's Pioneer 10 spacecraft took the first closeup images of the planet and also temporarily vanished in the early 1990s.
The band was spotted as recently as the end of 2009, right before Jupiter moved too close to the sun in the sky to be observed from Earth. When the planet returned to view again in early April, its south equatorial belt was nowhere to be seen.
[...]Usually, the Great Red Spot is accompanied by a dark reddish belt that goes all the way around the planet, like the one in the northern hemisphere you can see in the picture. However, the Southern Equatorial Belt, as it’s called, is gone!
This has happened before, in fact. It’s not clear exactly why this sort of thing occurs, though. The belts (and their lighter-colored cousins, called zones) are weather patterns that stretch around the planet, a bit like the jet stream on Earth. They can be affected by temperature, chemical composition, and other factors. It’s possible that a belt can sink lower in the Jovian atmosphere if it cools slightly. Clouds then pour in on top of it, hiding it from view. It’s still there, just hidden; if the temperature rises it can float back up like nothing ever happened.
Jupiter is a weird place. Remember, we only see the very tops of the clouds. They go all the way down, tens of thousands of kilometers deep, where the pressure gets so great the gas just sorta gradually turns into a liquid. So having a belt sink a little bit and disappearing is perhaps less unlikely with such a freaky planet than it would be on Earth.
Originally posted by air101
i think it has to do with the angle the planet may be in. i remember watching some show saying that the rings are hard to see in a certain angle. im not sure if its the same planet but they found another ring not too long ago that was never spotted cause f this same reason.
[edit on 12-5-2010 by air101]
Originally posted by discl0sur3
Global warming no doubt. Every planet in our solar system is experiencing the same phenomenon. Even the ice caps on Mars are melting...