Thursday, June 28, 2007

Jupiter is Changing

With the Hubble Space Telescope, scientists are witnessing a large change in Jupiter's atmosphere.

Jupiter's clouds are always changing because the large bands of clouds move at hundreds of miles per hour with small effect at the global scale, but new Hubble images show something different.

The clouds are undergoing a drastic change. The bands of clouds near the equator are changing in both shape and color. The lighter bands of clouds (zones) have become darker, and the darker regions (belts) have become lighter.

These drastic changes have previously been seen, but with the Hubble's high resolution, Astronomers can study these changes with greater detail to understand how, "such global upheavals develop on Jupiter.

The Changes

In the left image, there is a thin strip of white clouds located above the equator. In the right image, these white clouds have become brown and the whole band looks as if it has combined with the band below it.

Image Credit: NASA & ESA
(Click for Hi-Res version with greater detail)

In the left image, there are large swirls of clouds south of the equator. Then in the image at the right, the lower portion of the large 'swirl band' seems to disappear and in its place there are many small swirls that are far from the equator.

Below the equatorial region, the brownish upside-down shark fin in the left-hand image disappears in the photo at right. Appearing instead are brownish tongue-shaped clouds with a stream of white swirls below them."

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