Jupiter gets popped again
June 3, 2010
Amateur astronomers from Australia and the Philippines have detected an apparent “impact” on Jupiter. The event was captured at 20:31 UT on June 3rd. Both Anthony Wesley (Australia) and Christopher Go (Philippines) obtained video showing a short lived (~2 seconds) flash that appear very similar to impact-related flashes seen on Earth’s Moon. The video frame below is from Wesley’s video, while a movie by Go can be found here.
This is the 3rd impact event observed on Jupiter. The previous two, the Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 impacts in 1994 and the July 19, 2009, were observed after the fact as dark spots due to expanding debris falling back unto the cloud deck of Jupiter. This is the first time ground-based observers have imaged the actual impact of a body into Jupiter.
Coincidentally, the Hubble Space Telescope Science Institute released new findings on the July 19, 2009 event. That impact is now though to have been caused by a small, 500-meter in diameter, asteroid. The fact that today’s event did not produce any noticeable debris suggests that its impactor is much smaller. [UPDATE: Still no sign of debris, or anything, from this impact. It certainly was much smaller than the 2 previously recorded impact events.]
Events of this size may happen quite often. As more and more amateurs monitor the planets, we should expect additional examples to be captured. In fact, this is Wesley’s second Jupiter impact as he was the first person to notice the July 2009 impact.