Copyright 2009 Glen Ward and Starry Mirror
Astronomy From West Virginia
TWO YEARS OF BIG JUPITER ACTIVITY
Flemington, WV - The disappearance of Jupiter's South Equatorial Band through most of 2010 was an event which for me has proven to be one of the more fascinating things I have seen on the planets.
Shortly after the planet emerged from behind the Sun last Spring, I observed it low in the morning sky. I was surprised to see one of the belts missing! After twenty years of watching the big planet, I had to look twice to believe what I was seeing. The low power view of the yellow disk with the two bands is familiar to anyone who has spent much time observing the planets. The southern band had not just faded - it was gone.
Geoff Chester at the USNO is a good person to contact regarding these things, and he reported that the band had just started to disappear before the planet went into conjuction. After the conjunction, there was little left of it, and by the time it was high enough in the morning sky for me to observe, it was gone.
In July, it appeared that the band was trying to make a comeback. It began to appear light grey in our ten inch telescope, and several friends from around the World reported that the band appeared to be coming back.
But this was not to be, and the band faded back out again by September. As of mid-November, it is still gone. This does make observing the Great Red Spot, the famous inhabitant of the band, quite a bit easier, and the big storm can now be discerned in telescopes which normally would not show it. Recently a dark spot has appeared near the Red Spot, and it is easy to see in most any good telescope.
The past two years have been very exciting for observers of the big planet. The collision site in Summer 2009 was easy to see, and there were also numerous atmospheric dark spots which appeared along the SEB before the band's disappearance. At one point, these spots were so numerous that they were appearing almost like the July 1994 collision sites. It would be interesting to know what relationship these spots had to the disappearance of the band. - GW