The Before And After Of Jupiter

Something is wrong in Jupiter. Astronomer Anthony Wesley's photos show that one of its two dark stripes is gone. Maybe Sir Arthur C. Clarke was right and the gas giant will turn into a star to jumpstart life in Europa.

But no, even while it's 2010, the process has happened before. It's a phenomenon called South Equatorial Belt Disturbance, and it happens every three to 15 years. The dark reddish brown - caused by sulphur and phosphorous mixed with ammonia crystals at 78 degrees below zero - fades away. At the same time, the Great Red Spot - a fiery anticyclonic storm that can reach 40,000km in diameter - gets darker.

But don't worry. The naked Jupiter will regain its belt soon. If you have a telescope, you will be able to see it during the next few weeks. [Astro Bob - Thanks Bob!]

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