`Jupiter loses one of its stripes`

Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system, has lost one of its red stripes as per recent images.

Updated: May 12, 2010, 19:01 PM IST

London: Jupiter, the largest planet in our
solar system, has lost one of its iconic red stripes,
according to the most recent images taken by astronomers.

The gas giant is usually dominated by two dark bands in
its atmosphere -- one in the northern hemisphere and another
in the southern hemisphere.

"But the most recent images taken by astronomers showed
that the lower stripe has disappeared, leaving the southern
half of the planet looking unusually naked," the Daily Mail

"The band was present at the end of 2009 before Jupiter
ducked behind the Sun. However, when it emerged from our
star`s glare in early April, the belt had disappeared," the
report said.

Amateur astronomer Bob King, who was one of the first to
notice the strange phenomenon, 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."

Jupiter is a giant ball of gas and liquid around 500
million miles from the Sun. The planet`s surface is composed
of dense red, brown, yellow, and white clouds arranged in
light-coloured areas called zones and darker regions called
belts. The clouds are created by chemicals that have formed at
different heights.

And the exciting phenomenon of Jupiter losing a stripe is
not actually new. The planet loses or regains one of its belts
every 10 of 15 years, although exactly why this happens is a
mystery, said the report.

Noted Jupiter watcher Anthony Wesley, who spotted an
impact spot on its surface last year, has tracked the
disappearing belt from his backyard in Australia.

"It was obvious last year that it was fading. It was
closely observed by anyone watching Jupiter," he told The
Planetary Society.

"There was a big rush on to find out what had changed
once it came back into view."

Wesley said while it was a mystery as to what had caused
the belt to fade, the most likely explanation was that it was
linked to storm activity that preceded the change.
"The question now is when will the South Equatorial belt
erupt back into activity and reappear?" Wesley said.

Bureau Report