You may have heard the big astronomy news the last few days about Jupiter’s lower cloud belt going missing. It is a big mystery that has left stargazer’s scratching their heads trying to explain the disappearance of one of the gas giants famous brown bands which encircles it. According to a recent NASA press statement,”This is a big event,” says planetary scientist Glenn Orton of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab. “We’re monitoring the situation closely and do not yet fully understand what’s going on.” Known as the South Equatorial Belt (SEB), the brown cloudy band is twice as wide as Earth and more than twenty times as long. The loss of such an enormous “stripe” can be seen with ease halfway across the solar system.
This is a celestial event which anyone who wakes up at dawn and looks towards the eastern horizon can easily see. Look for a bright star hanging halfway up the eastern sky – that is Jupiter – easily seen with the naked eye but a small telescope will bring out the details and you can see the missing stripe for yourself.
“In any size telescope, or even in large binoculars, Jupiter’s signature appearance has always included two broad equatorial belts,” says amateur astronomer Anthony Wesley of Australia. “I remember as a child seeing them through my small backyard refractor and it was unmistakable. Anyone who turns their telescope on Jupiter at the moment, however, will see a planet with only one belt–a very strange sight.”
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