Friday, May 14, 2010

Jupiter loses one of its stripes and scientists are stumped as to why

Jupiter has lost one of its iconic red stripes and scientists are baffled as to why. The largest planet in our solar system is usually dominated by two dark bands in its atmosphere, with one in the northern hemisphere and one in the southern hemisphere.

However, the most recent images taken by amateur astronomers have revealed the lower stripe known as the Southern Equatorial Belt has disappeared leaving the southern half of the planet looking unusually bare.

Journalist and amateur astronomer Bob King, also known as Astro_Bob, was one of the first to note the strange phenomenon.

He said: 'Jupiter with only one belt is almost like seeing Saturn when its rings are edge-on and invisible for a time - it just doesn't look right.'

It is not the first time this unusual phenomenon has been noticed. Jupiter loses or regains one of its belts every ten of 15 years, although exactly why this happens is a mystery.
Enlarge Jupiter has a complex belt system

Jupiter has a complex belt system

The planet is a giant ball of gas and liquid around 500million miles from the Sun. It's surface is composed of dense red, brown, yellow, and white clouds arranged in light-coloured areas called zones and darker regions called belts.

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