Jupiter with “Mickey’s head”

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Since a few weeks, a curious pattern of white spots is evolving in the southern hemisphere of Jupiter, with a clear look-alike of the Mickey’s head. I have been able to image it last 22nd January; what is it exactly?


The “Mickey’s head” is a pattern of three white spots that can currently be observed in the southern temperate latitudes of Jupiter. The middle one is found at a different latitude of the two others, giving to the whole pattern a clear look of the famous cartoon character!

At left is the first color image of that night. The pattern is circled in gray (RGB processing, 10 mn of derotation).

These structures are well known. The two “ears” are long-lived whitish anticyclones of the SSTB, typical of the region.

The elliptical white spot in the middle is a low-pressure vortex. It’s found at a different latitude, as it is always the case on Jupiter between cyclones and anticyclones, and this is what gives this particular aspect.

The figure below shows how do winds behave in the region.


Here is schematic view of the SSTB with south up. The two big white arrows are the jet-streams that border the SSTB. The dashed red one shows the global drift sens of the whole belt. H are high-pressures and L the low-pressures.


Most of the time, cyclonic structures in the SSTB are much less organized than anticyclones. Some are disorganized filamentary zones just like the one at right on the diagram. Some however get an elliptical shape, but they are usually larger and less contrasted than anticyclones. The one visible here as the “head” of the mouse is particularly white and bright. What’s more, a few months ago Manos kardasis noted that it was CH4 bright, while low-pressures are not supposed to be bright in methane band (brightness means higher altitude). At right is a CH4 image of that night where the pattern is clearly visible (click for full size).

The stretched space between the two HP must be the reason why the cyclonic vortex presents such characteristics.

Below is a portrait of Jupiter with Io, taken on the same night. Processing in LRGB with derotation of 10 mn.