So-called “brown barges” are cyclonic storms in Jupiter’s atmosphere that are typically found in the giant planet’s relatively dark North Equatorial Belt but they are occasionally spotted om the South Equatorial Belt as well. The storms are difficult to detect visually because they tend to blend in with the surrounding areas. But occasionally, the darker material in the belt recedes and brown barges become easier to see against the lighter background. This image, capturing a brown barge in the South Equatorial Belt, was captured by NASA’s Juno Jupiter orbiter on 6 September as the probe made its 15th close flyby at a distance of 11,950 kilometres (7,425 miles) from Jupiter’s cloudtops. The color-enhanced JunoCam image was processed by citizen-scientist Kevin M. Gill.
Observers in Western Europe with a clear sky around local midnight cannot fail to notice the conspicuous ‘star’ that is Jupiter low in the south. But look a span-and-a-half of an outstretched hand at arm’s length to Jupiter’s left and you’ll find another giant of the solar system – Saturn. The ringed planet is closest to Earth for 2019 on 9 July, so here is our quick observing guide.
Scientists using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope have produced new maps of Jupiter that show the continuing changes in its famous Great Red Spot. The images also reveal a rare wave structure in the planet’s atmosphere that has not been seen for decades. This is the first in a series of annual portraits of the solar system’s outer planets which will help researchers study how they change over time.
There’s a lot of planetary activity in the dawn sky in mid-April. If you’re an early riser in the British Isles, let the waning crescent Moon be your guide to the naked-eye planets Jupiter, Saturn and Mars on 15 and 16 April 2020. Typical 7×50 or 10×50 binoculars will show these attractive conjunctions well, while the smallest of telescopes also reveal some of Jupiter’s bright Galilean moons.