Miércoles 4 de Julio de 2007, Ip nº 197

Jupiter changes its stripes
Por David Shiga

Jupiter's cloud patterns are undergoing dramatic changes, reveal new images by the Hubble Space Telescope. Similar transformations of the giant planet's clouds have been witnessed before, but never in such detail – and they have never been explained.

Hubble has been keeping an eye on Jupiter to provide context for close-up observations made by NASA's New Horizons spacecraft, which flew by the solar system's largest planet in February on its way to Pluto.

Some changes were already evident in January, when Jupiter became observable again after a period when it was too close to the Sun in the sky for Hubble to image. At that time, cloud bands around its equator that had been whitish for the past 15 years or so were noticeably darker.

Then, between 25 March and 5 June, a white band in the planet's northern hemisphere turned brown, while a gap in the cloud layer produced a serpent-shaped dark streak in the same area. White bands in the southern hemisphere seem to be changing colour now, too, says Amy Simon-Miller of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, US.

"This is the first time that we've been able to watch the sequence with high-resolution spacecraft images," she told

  28/06/2007. New Scientist Magazine.