Image of the Day: Jupiter’s “Lost” Belt


The raging turmoil inside Jupiter’s missing – and slowly re-emerging – South Equatorial Belt can now be seen in unprecedented detail by the Keck II telescope’s Adaptive Optics system and its unique near-infrared camera. The heat from Jupiter's interior shines though the cold, high clouds in this spectacular 5-micron thermal infrared image.

“The thermal IR senses breaks in the cloud cover,” said astronomer Mike Wong of the University of California at Berkeley. The thermal IR data is essentially showing heat from Jupiter’s interior being radiated into space. The three other IR bands, in contrast, are reflected sunlight. Put them all together and compare them to visible light images and scientists get a picture of a thinning, breaking layer of high, bright, icy clouds that have obscured the brown-red South Equatorial Belt (SEB) for about a year, making it look like a wide white zone.

“We see wispy cloud-free regions at 5 microns in the SEB,” said Wong, “But they are much less extensive than the near-infrared dark regions surrounding them. The data show that the change from zone-like to belt-like appearance is a complex process that takes place at different speeds in each layer of Jupiter’s atmosphere.”

The Daily Galaxy via W. M. Keck Observatory

Image Credit: Courtesy of Mike Wong, Franck Marchis & W.M. Keck Observatory


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