Monday, February 14, 2011

Jupiter’s Moon Helps Peek Below Planet’s Belt

Astronomers have a new view of the chaos brewing beneath Jupiter’s cloud belt, thanks to some help from its icy moon Europa.

This new image, captured Nov. 30, 2010 with the 10-meter Keck II telescope in Hawaii, shows heat escaping from Jupiter’s interior, giving astronomers a peek into the roiling turmoil inside Jupiter’s missing red stripe.

The image shows Jupiter at four wavelengths of infrared light, which is beyond the range that human eyes can see. Three of those wavelengths show reflected sunlight. But one wavelength, 5 micrometers, can sense breaks in the cloud cover.

Jupiter’s famous red stripe mysteriously faded in late 2009 and vanished altogether by May, 2010. Observations with Hubble and other telescopes showed that the ruddy band was hiding beneath a layer of high, bright clouds made from icy ammonia crystals.

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