Jupiter Loses a Stripe and NASA is Mystified

The headline from an article published today by NASA is surprising enough: "Big Mystery: Jupiter Loses a Stripe". So after going to the source to verify it, I can say that it appears legitimate. The news item in question talks about the unexplained disappearance of one of Jupiter's two main cloud belts. My first surprise after reading about this event is that this pheomenon is not yet fully understood by NASA. After all these years that Jupiter has been studied and observed by astronomers, I thought they could explain this type of events more easily. As Shakespeare said through Hamlet: "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy".

But, instead of trying to describe this event in words, it will be much better to show the evidence:

Photos taken by Australian astrophotographer Anthony Wesley

One of the first things that came to my mind when I read this article and saw the photo above was one of the last scenes of the movie "2010: The Year We Make Contact" (in particular the one where Jupiter starts to change and the astronauts are desperately trying to escape its orbit before it is too late). Since I saw that movie (and "2001: A Space Odyseey"), any news about Jupiter sounds interesting to me. Especially if there are any visible changes through our great distance apart!

This event also reminded me of another news item I follwed way back in July 1994, when the comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 had a collision with Jupiter, which was recorded in a series of spectacular photos taken by the Hubble telescope. That was the first time that an extraterrestrial collision of objects in our solar system was observed and recorded directly. The next picture shows the mark left by that impact on the mighty planet (the mark seen near the top, a bit left of the centre of the image)

Hubble Space Telescope Jupiter Imaging Team

And the following image shows the series of impact sites on Jupiter when they occured as seen through an infrared image taken by the Calar Alto Observatory in Spain on July 25, 1994. (NASA has a very good compilation of Images from Comet (SL-9) Collision with Jupiter, the one below is only one of those).

In total, there have been two major "significant" events, observable from Earth, in Jupiter, in the last 16 years. Who knows what else, and how much more is happening in our solar system that we do not know?

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