Solar System Spectacle
31 Jan 2002
Space Weather News
Something extraordinary is happening on the planet Jupiter in full view of amateur astronomers: Two gigantic storms are interacting. One is a "white oval" -- a 70-year old hurricane nearly the size of Earth. The other is the famous Great Red Spot -- a centuries-old tempest twice as wide as our planet. Sky watchers with 6" to 10" telescopes can view the action on clear nights with good atmospheric seeing.
Meanwhile, southern-hemisphere sky watchers can follow another dynamic show: Comet LINEAR (C/2000 WM1) is flaring. Only a few days ago, the comet was barely visible to the unaided eye (6th magnitude), but now it is relatively eye-catching (3rd magnitude). Comet LINEAR passed close to the Sun in late January, an encounter that might have disrupted its icy nucleus and triggered the ongoing show.
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