New Images Indicate Object Hits Jupiter

Jul 21, 2009
This image shows a large impact on Jupiter's south polar region captured on July 20, 2009, by NASA's Infrared Telescope Facility in Mauna Kea, Hawaii. Image credit: NASA/JPL/Infrared Telescope Facility

(PhysOrg.com) -- Scientists have found evidence that another object has bombarded Jupiter, exactly 15 years after the first impacts by the comet Shoemaker-Levy 9.

Following up on a tip by an amateur astronomer, Anthony Wesley of Australia, that a new dark "scar" had suddenly appeared on , this morning between 3 and 9 a.m. PDT (6 a.m. and noon EDT) scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., using NASA's Facility at the summit of Mauna Kea, Hawaii, gathered evidence indicating an impact.

New infrared images show the likely impact point was near the south polar region, with a visibly dark "scar" and bright upwelling particles in the detected in near-infrared wavelengths, and a warming of the upper troposphere with possible extra emission from ammonia gas detected at mid-infrared wavelengths.

"We were extremely lucky to be seeing Jupiter at exactly the right time, the right hour, the right side of Jupiter to witness the event. We couldn't have planned it better," said Glenn Orton, a scientist at JPL.

This is a false color image of the impact site in Jupiter's southern hemisphere. Credit: Paul Kalas (UCB), Michael Fitzgerald (LLNL/UCB), Franck Marchis (SETI Institute/UCB), James Graham (UCB)

Orton and his team of astronomers kicked into gear early in the morning and haven't stopped tracking the planet. They are downloading data now and are working to get additional observing time on this and other telescopes.

This image was taken at 1.65 microns, a wavelength sensitive to sunlight reflected from high in Jupiter's atmosphere, and it shows both the bright center of the scar (bottom left) and the debris to its northwest (upper left).

"It could be the impact of a comet, but we don't know for sure yet," said Orton. "It's been a whirlwind of a day, and this on the anniversary of the Shoemaker-Levy 9 and Apollo anniversaries is amazing."

Shoemaker-Levy 9 was a comet that had been seen to break into many pieces before the pieces hit Jupiter in 1994.

Leigh Fletcher, a NASA postdoctoral fellow at JPL who worked with Orton during these latest observations said, "Given the rarity of these events, it's extremely exciting to be involved in these observations. These are the most exciting observations I've seen in my five years of observing the outer planets!"

The observations were made possible in large measure by the extraordinary efforts of the Infrared Telescope Facility staff, including telescope operator William Golisch, who adroitly moved three instruments in and out of the field during the short time the scar was visible on the planet, providing the wide wavelength coverage.

Provided by JPL/NASA (news : web)

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User comments : 11

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RAL
3.8 / 5 (5) Jul 21, 2009
I would speculate that if there is that much out there flying around, one of the requirements for life to evolve to our level may be large planets in same solar system to serve as a soak.
Nik_2213
5 / 5 (2) Jul 21, 2009
IIRC, RAL, that's generally accepted.

On a lesser scale, our Moon has taken some whoppers for us. And, IIRC, stabilised polar axis, stirred the mantle etc etc...
escherplex
3.8 / 5 (4) Jul 21, 2009
As an aside, the 1994 and current impact latitudes are interesting. Naively you might expect collisions with Jupiter to be clustered in a band around plus or minus 5 degrees of the equator but these impacts were well to the south. This suggests that no latitude on the surface of a planet (eg earth) is immune to a direct hit.
omatumr
1.2 / 5 (5) Jul 21, 2009
EXACTLY 15 YEARS AFTER IMPACT WITH COMET SHOEMAKER-LEVY 9

Jupiter travels around the Sun in about 11.8 Earth years, one Jovian year.

Gravitational interactions between Jupiter and the compact, energetic core of the Sun probably generates the best-known solar cycle of magnetic storms, sunspots, and eruptions of the Sun.

Do Anthony Wesley or NASA know why the latest impact occurred "exactly 15 years after the first impacts by the comet Shoemaker-Levy 9"?

With kind regards,
Oliver K. Manuel
retro
2 / 5 (4) Jul 21, 2009
One should not jump to the impact conclusion, since no impact was observed. At best, one can say that there is a hot spot on Jupiter with upwelling from the lower atmosphere. Could be some process as yet unknown or unobserved. However, I would say that if an object the size of Venus jumps out of this spot and starts to volley around the inner solar system, I would not know whether to laugh or cry.
RayCherry
3.5 / 5 (2) Jul 21, 2009
escherplex ... there has been an active and successful search of meteorite materials on the land/ice boundaries of Antarctica.

Consider also the 'tilt' of our planet from the ecliptic (the plane in which most of the planets travel around the sun) and the variation of 'altitude' above or below this ecliptic at which inbound comets and solar system debris (such as asteroids) may make their approaches to the sun.

There is, perhaps, less reason to think that inbound materials meeting a planet in their path should arrive at a point around the planet's equator.

Referring to NIK's comment, perhaps the moon provides more evidence of what has become hidden on Earth, by the expanses of water and deserts, and also the geological evolution of the land surface.

The age of some of those marks on the surface of the moon may go back billions of years, to the time when the planetoid was forming from debris in orbit around Earth, (the origin of which maybe the Pacific basin).

As for marks on the surface of the Earth, the Great Lakes of North America and Canada are viewed by many in geology as the results of impacts.

Search for the growing lists available on the net of identified and confirmed Earth craters, then consider that during a full eclipse the shadow of the moon cast on the Earth is only (approximately) two-hundred miles across. I'm sure that the occupants of the moon in the future will take comfort in the numbers of hits that Earth takes 'for the team'.

Perhaps also read Prof. Mike Bailey's evidence for a comet strike in the Northern Hemisphere circa 536AD.
yyz
1 / 5 (1) Jul 21, 2009
The possibility exists of more objects to impact the planet over the next few days, similar to what was observed with Shoemaker-Levy 9. There may be more of this show to come!
defunctdiety
3.8 / 5 (5) Jul 21, 2009
Okay there's some weird things being said here...

our Moon has taken some whoppers for us
...
the requirements for life to evolve to our level may be large planets


Let's not forget the atmosphere which plays, probably, an exponentially bigger role in protecting us than these two things ever have/will. We can't really know in the least that if the moon wasn't struck by what caused it's "seas" that it would have hit earth. And anything that hits Jupiter probably never had more than a zero chance of hitting earth.

I'm pretty sure every gravitational field out there, tugging around comets/meteors, etc. plays a bigger role in our "defense" than other bodies "intercepting" things headed for us. And not to mention all of these "roles" are nothing more than random chance, nothing's protecting us from a cataclysmic collision. Nothing, short of our own ingenuity.

This suggests that no latitude on the surface of a planet (eg earth) is immune to a direct hit.


I think astrological observation suggested this a loooong time ago ... not to mention the Tunguska Event.

the Great Lakes of North America and Canada are viewed by many in geology as the results of impacts


Who are these "many"?!?!! I've never heard this theory proposed, ever, and I think any geologist who proposed it would be laughed out of the field.
LadyBloodstar
not rated yet Jul 21, 2009
defunctdeity brings up an excellent point...Jupiter is bound to bring in a lot of things simply due to it's sheer gravity created by it's mass. The larger planets and sun will almost often pull things in before they ever even have a chance of hitting us. As for the article..how did we we go from a new spot being found by Wesley in Australia to Orton saying they witnessed the event? Which he only knew to look up at it after he was told to by reports. I'm no scientist, it just sounds strange by my opinion. How do you witness an event that has already happened?
TJ_alberta
5 / 5 (2) Jul 21, 2009
I think that the SA article is more informative for non professionals:
http://www.scient...new-spot
RayCherry
4 / 5 (1) Jul 22, 2009
DefunctDiety: Your response about the formation of the "Great Lakes" was right. I should not have implied the five "Great Lakes" of USA were the results of meteor impacts, only that there is much reseach into impacts that have resulted in lakes across America and Canada. Also, that amongst my reading, I had seen research into impact structures in the Great Lakes themselves.

I hope that the following links will be useful:

Earth Impact Research:
"http://www.unb.ca...t3.htm"
"http://rst.gsfc.n...4.html"

Crater Lake(s)
"http://www.solarv...#views"
"http://en.wikiped..._Basin"
"http://meteorites...s.aspx"

Lake Superior Research:
"http://ottawa-ras...slands"
"http://ntrs.nasa....74.pdf"
"http://eol.jsc.na...n=ISS016&roll=E&frame=36108"

Lake Huron Research:
"http://www.scienc...09.htm"
"http://www.thefre...m/Impact crater may lie beneath Lake Huron-a09396611"

Lake Ontario Research:
"http://www.glerl....12.pdf"
"http://www.ngdc.n...o.html"

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