Friday, December 10, 2010

It's time for a revival!

On Jupiter that is!  Typically, the king of planets sports two distinct cloud belts, creatively referred to as the north and south equatorial bands (NEB and SEB respectively).  This year has been an interesting one on Jupiter as the SEB had disappeared!  To the left is an image from Mr. Anthony Wesley in Australia that provides a comparison of Jupiter's appearance from 2010 to 2009.  North is up in these images and you can clearly see the missing SEB, leaving the Great Red Spot (GRS) all alone.

In mid November, observers around the world began to take note of what has been termed the SEB Revival.  There is an interesting article on NASA's webpage that details much of what has taken place since the SEB's disappearance in the spring, including many spectacular infrared images.  Two nights ago I opened up the Lost Pleiad Observatory just at sundown to begin to let the telescope acclimate to ambient temperature.  There was a bit of high level cirrus hanging around and I noticed that Jupiter was blazing through the thin cloud layer.  Visual observers know that often a slight bit of haze can actually improve views of Jupiter by cutting down on the brilliance and allowing for greater contrast- so I decided to put dinner on hold and take a peek at the king...and I was not disappointed!  I was treated to a steady view of the SEB revival.  While the sketch to the right does not do the eyepiece view justice, you can see that there was a distinct dark band in the south, that included a bright knot on the central meridian.  The band appeared to curve up toward the equator on the proceeding limb (left in the sketch).  Utilizing my TEC 140 refractor at 196x, the sketch was completed at 0043 UT on December 9th (5:43 PM local time on December 8th).

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