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HOMEPAGE OBSERVING by Sean Walker
Saturn's New Bright Storm
The two largest planets in our solar system are now putting on an exciting show for observers — and they're perfectly placed for those of you hoping to try out that new telescope or eyepiece holiday gift.
On Jupiter, the revival of the South Equatorial Belt has spread to almost completely encircle the planet. Jupiter is a snap to find blazing high in the south at nightfall.
Meanwhile, a new white storm has burst forth on Saturn. Perhaps the ringed planet was feeling neglected due the attention heaped on Jupiter recently.
Saturn is now well up in the southeastern sky before dawn, far to the upper right of bright Venus. Be on the lookout for rapid changes to the feature's shape and extent. Here are transit-time predictions of the original outbreak site through January 13th (in Easterm Standard Time, which is UT minus 5 hours).
This disturbance is not the same one noted by amateurs earlier this year, which appeared at a dynamic southern latitude band nicknamed "Storm Alley."
NASA's Cassini spacecraft has a "ringside" seat for the roiling clouds, as seen in the shot at right, which was taken on December 24th and transmitted to Earth on the 27th. Check the mission's website for other high-resolution images of the planet.
Click here to see a gallery of recent storm images.
Posted by Sean Walker, December 27, 2010