The Half-Astrophysicist Blog

Jupiter Gets a Black Eye

A few days ago, amateur astronomer Anthony Wesley of Australia was imaging Jupiter and found a new dark spot. The spot instantly conjured up memories of the impact of comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 some fifteen years ago.

Follow up images confirmed the discovery and that it was an impact (as opposed to a weather related dark spot).  NASA’s Infrared Telescope Facility on Hawaii captured a good image of the impact.

You can see the bright spot where it hit and some debris heading to the northwest (upper left) from the impact. If the image looks a little funny, that’s because it was taken in infrared light (1.65 microns fro those in the biz).

This could be a boon for astronomers.  It happened fifteen years ago, but you always want more data…after all, you need a sample size bigger than one (well, technically Shoemaker-Levy 9 had a bunch of different impacts).   Astronomical instruments have advanced tremendously in the last 15 years so we are bound to get more and better data this time.

It sure is nice that we have a big planet like Jupiter out there…its gravity helps protect Earth from impacts by sweeping up debris or ejecting it from the Solar System entirely.  Studying these impacts can only help when we find one with our name on it.


July 23, 2009 - Posted by | Solar System

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