Things are happening on the giant planets

Posted by Michael Bakich
on Friday, December 17, 2010

I just received two images that will convince anyone that astronomical objects — especially planets — are not stale, dead places.

Saturnian storm, taken December 14, 2010, by Anthony Wesley
The first image shows Saturn, and it’s from Anthony Wesley of Murrumbateman, Australia. He took it December 14, at 18h31m52s UT, and it shows a storm that appeared the previous day. In this image, the storm is the bright, elongated white spot in Saturn’s atmosphere above the rings. Some imagers have called this the “Dragon Storm.” I don’t know. Does the white area look like the head of a dragon to you?

The second image shows Jupiter. Longtime contributor Christopher Go of Cebu, Philippines, sent this image he took December 15 at 10h04m UT. It shows the Great Red Spot (GRS) below center, the thick reddish North Equatorial Belt (NEB) stretching from left to right above center, and — appearing as a thin red line above the GRS — what astronomers think is the northern edge of the giant planet’s South Equatorial Belt (SEB).

Jupiter's South Equatorial Belt revivial, taken December 15, 2010, by Christopher Go
Earlier this year, the SEB appeared just as vibrant as the NEB, but then the SEB disappeared. Don’t worry — it’s happened before. Now, however, observers think the SEB has begun its revival, and this image lends credence to those thoughts. Throughout the SEB’s disappearance, the NEB has remained strong.

Thanks to both Anthony and Christopher. Please keep the great images coming!

If you’re a planetary imager, e-mail your highest-resolution work (with all details) to ReaderGallery@astronomy.com.

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