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Amateur astronomers join UC experts to solve a planetary mystery


Narrator:            This is Science Today. Every few decades or so, one of Jupiter's dark brown stripes, called the South Equatorial Belt, fades away and later regains its color. Recently, amateur astronomers observed a prominent bright spot in the unusually whitened belt, indicating the stripe may be making a comeback. Imke de Pater, chair of the astronomy department at the University of California, Berkeley, says they're working closely with amateur astronomers. 

de Pater:            I think that's pretty unique because that doesn't happen in other parts of astronomy.  But planets and in particular Jupiter is bright, the amateurs do just an incredible job nowadays. They have really good equipment.  They use video cameras to take short exposure images, many, many, many and then normally they just pick out the best images.  So they get very sharp images of Jupiter.  And when they see something unusual, they report it and so that's when we hear about it, that is when we ask for time on large telescopes. 

Narrator:            For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.