Astro Bob blog: Sun kicks out the jamsA new sunspot group's got me excited. Missing Jupiter belt update.
By: Bob King, Duluth News Tribune
Sun kicks out the jams
This photo was taken by NASA's orbiting Solar Dynamics Observatory about 2:30 Tuesday afternoon and shows the very active sunspot group 1089. Huge loops of incandescent hydrogen gas larger than Earth arch over the region. This view was taken in the light of extreme ultraviolet which reveals structures invisible in regular, "white light" telescopes. Credit: NASA/SDO
A new sunspot region is rotating into view along the southeast limb of the sun and it looks like a whopper. Named region 1089, it's already busting out small to medium-sized flares as it continues to expand in size. If you have a telescope equipped with a safe solar filter, this week will be an exciting one to monitor the group's development. Based on the photos taken so far, I suspect 1089 will eventually grow large enough to see with the naked eye when viewed through an appropriate safe solar filter.
Region 1089 is seen here at lower left earlier today. This view is closer to the way the sunspot group looks in regular light, the way you'd see it in typical telescope equipped with a safe solar filter. The dark dots are sunspots and the white patches are called faculae. Both are concentrations of the sun's magnetic energy, but faculae concentrate that magnetic energy in tighter bundles and so appear brighter than sunspots. Credit: NASA/ESA
Sunspots take about two weeks to rotate from the eastern edge of the sun to the west. If flares increase in intensity while the group is nearer the centerline of the sun's disk, our chances for good northern lights displays increase also. I'll keep you posted on what's in store.
These two photos of Jupiter were taken five minutes apart on July 10. The NEB (near top) is dark and colorful in contrast to the faint SEB. Credit: Damian Peach
Like several others who read this blog, I've been out in the wee hours observing Jupiter, which now rises shortly before midnight. The best time to see any sky object is when it's highest in the sky and least affected by dense air, haze and turbulence. For Jupiter that time is currently between 2 and 6 a.m.
Over the past two weeks I've observed the planet three times in my 15-inch reflecting telescope and I can tell you this: the South Equatorial Belt (SEB) -- the one that disappeared this spring -- still shows faint traces of its former self. The North Equatorial Belt (NEB) is hard to miss and looks like a big pink hot dog stretching from one end of the planet to the other. As for the SEB, it's there but the life's been sucked out of it. I still see the stripe shape, but it's faint and very pale grey. To date I've only seen the SEB on the side of the planet opposite the Great Red Spot, so it may look different or be entirely missing on the "Red Spot" side. Do we have any other Jupiter belt observers out there who'd like to chime in with their impressions?