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Sidewalk Astronomy event Nov. 1 at RecPlex

Ponca City Now - October 29, 2019 12:23 pm

Jupiter is the king of the solar system, more massive than all of the other solar-system planets combined. Although astronomers have been observing the gas-giant planet for hundreds of years, it still remains a mysterious world. Astronomers don't have definitive answers, for example, of why cloud bands and storms change colors, or why storms shrink in size. The most prominent long-lasting feature, the Great Red Spot, has been downsizing since the 1800s. However, the giant storm is still large enough to swallow Earth. The Red Spot is anchored in a roiling atmosphere that is powered by heat welling up from the monster planet’s deep interior, which drives a turbulent atmosphere. In contrast, sunlight powers Earth's atmosphere. From Jupiter, however, the Sun is much fainter because the planet is much farther away from it. Jupiter's upper atmosphere is a riot of colorful clouds, contained in bands that whisk along at different wind speeds and in alternating directions. Dynamic features such as cyclones and anticyclones (high-pressure storms that rotate counterclockwise in the southern hemisphere) abound. Attempting to understand the forces driving Jupiter's atmosphere is like trying to predict the pattern cream will make when it is poured into a hot cup of coffee. Researchers are hoping that Hubble's yearly monitoring of the planet—as an interplanetary weatherman—will reveal the shifting behavior of Jupiter's clouds. Hubble images should help unravel many of the planet's outstanding puzzles. This new Hubble image is part of that yearly study, called the Outer Planets Atmospheres Legacy program, or OPAL.

Friday, Nov. 1 is Ponca City Astronomy Sidewalk Astronomy Event at the Ponca City RecPlex at 7 p.m.

This will probably be the last chance to view Jupiter for the next six months.

“We will still have a great view of the our Moon as well as Saturn,” said group founder Richard Jones. “Dress warm as the evenings are starting to get chilly.”

 

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