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Jupiter Impact

June 4, 2010

Something hit Jupiter on June 3rd and the event was captured by amateur astronomer Anthony Wesly from Australia. Independently, the event was also captured by another amateur astronomer from Phillipines, Christopher Go, thus conforming this impact event on Jupiter. According to Anthony Wesley, “at approximately 20:30utc this morning I recorded a large fireball on Jupiter, it lasted a couple of seconds and was very bright. This was a large fireball, but it doesn’t seem to have left any mark, probably all gone in the upper atmosphere before it reached the clouds.”

Now what caused this impact- probably a comet, meteroid or an asteroid. Since the event lasted for such a short time and no plume was visible, probably the size of the impacting object is very small. This small asteroid/meteoroid or comet won’t cause much changes to Jupiter’s atmosphere and weather conditions but if such asteroid happens to hit earth, it would be devastating causing losses of lives and largescale changes in weather pattern. This explains why Obama and NASA is going to focus more on preventing such asteroid impacts on earth. Astronomers will now be studying if the impact on Jupiter left any dark remnant, analyzing that can give more information.

This is not the first time Jupiter has been struck. In 1994, it was struck by 20 pieces of comet Shoemaker-Levy9 and then last year an asteroid (0.5 km wide) impacted it. Last year’s asteroid impact was also first observed by Anthony Wesley on Jul 19th and then Hubble Telescope recorded the aftermath from July 23 2009 to N0v 2009. The impact left a dent on Jupiter of the size of Pacific Ocean. While the 1994 impact was well predicted, the 2009 impact took astronomers by surprise and such a surprise would be catastrophic for earth. Scientists used Hubble images to compare with the Jupiter impact by comet shoemaker to determine what impacted it in 2009– an asteroid or a comet. The images revealed that the debris vanished very qucikly during Jul-Nov period suggesting there were fewer light-weight particles in the impacting object as compared to a dusty comet. Hence the suspect is an asteroid. Here is the sequential image provided by Hubble of last year’s impact on Jupiter [Courtesy NASA/ESA].

You can watch the video of the most recent impact (June 2010) here (the event happens during 8-9 secs of the video). Picture and Video courtesy Anthony Wesley and Christopher Go.

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