Popular Astronomy

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Jupiter images to May 2012

Here are a selection of recent images sent in to the section.

Marc Delcroix sent in this excellent set of Jupiter images in mid-January. It can be seen that the Great Red Spot is rather pale in colour and that behind the spot the South Equatorial Belt is full of turbulence. A dark shadow transit spot cast by the moon Io is clearly seen on the disc. Note how inactive and thin the North Equatorial Belt seems in comparison with the SEB.

Taken just two days before, this image by Martin Lewis shows tremendous detail in the equatorial belts and at least two 'white spot' storms in the South-South Temperate Belt region; not to mention little Calisto floating serenely by at the top of the image.










Similarly this image by Steve Norrie has caught the colour contrast between the various belts and zones on the face of Jupiter beautifully.











The image on the right was taken by Mike Brown using his excellent long-focus Newtonian telescope. The view is swapped north-south compared with the earlier images but, again, the thickness and high activity levels of the SEB, especially trailing the GRS is clearly evident and is quite in contrast with the thin and smooth NEB. Dark 'barges' float just above and below the NEB region.








Moving into February now and Dave Finnigan's lovely image, taken with a one-shot-colour camera, again shows how pale and 'washed out' the GRS has appeared in recent months.










I don't think the section receives enough sketches and written reports of observations; perhaps people are concerned that the art-work won't be of high enough quality. This is rather a shame as visual reports can be very valuable in determining changes in colour and contrast of various features; something that the computer-processing of images can sometimes disguise. This sketch, taken on the 2nd of February by Graham Sparrow, is valuable for revealing festoons and projections in the otherwise smooth NEB and the change in contrast between the regions leading and trailing the GRS.









Section members have caught a number of interesting transit and shadow-transit events during their observations. This image by Dave Finnigan, taken on the 12th of March, has caught the moon Europa in transit as a tiny spot over the South Tropical Belt of Jupiter; it is quite fascinating to watch these transits when the opportunity arises.








At the moment (May2012) Jupiter has moved along its orbit and is now too close to the Sun for effective (or safe) observation. It will become visible again as an early morning object in June but won't be well placed for observation for some time. By the end of September the 'King of Planets' will be rising during mid-evening and by the end of the year will be observable all night; but what is happening to it's dynamic weather features in the mean time? This image was taken on the 15th of March by Es Reid using a 7inch Dall-Kirkham 'Mewlon' telescope and was the last image of Jupiter received by the section before Jupiter was lost to the eveing sky, setting soon after the Sun. It shows that the NEB had thinned to a ghost of its former self and there is some speculation as to what will be seen when the planet is next observable. Incidentally the 'pimple' on the side of Jupiter in this image is the Moon Ganymede, just sliding behind the planet and out of view.

Perhaps the belt will have faded altogether, however some very late reports suggested that an 'outbreak' of dark clouds was occurring in the NEB region; perhaps the belt will be fully restored when next we get a good chance to view it. I await your observations with great interest.

                                                                                        Thank you,

                                                                                        Alan Clitherow.