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Astro-Porn of the Day: Jupiter Goes BOOM.

Yesterday, Jupiter took one for the team:

Click the image to see the i09 article. I love their "Jupiter saved us!" angle.

Amateur astronomers witnessed the event, and George Hall of Dallas, Texas, even filmed it (the above gif-enated shot is a still from his recording). The light from the explosion lasted between two and four seconds; Dan Petersen described it as "a bright white, two-second-long explosion just inside Jupiter's eastern limb... about 100 miles in diameter."

What smashed into ol' Jove was probably a small asteroid or a comet, similar to previously observed impacts. The best-known Jupiter impacts were when fragments of comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 crashed into Jupiter in 1994 and then 2009, leaving behind multiple atmospheric scars visible for weeks to anyone with a medium-sized telescope. Here's a mark from the July 2009 impact:

Click the image to see the NASA site.

Will this impact produce such lingering scars? Time will tell. If you have a telescope, get out there and look! Jupiter is the mega-bright object that dominates the post-midnight sky, standing nearly overhead in the wee hours of the morning.




( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 11th, 2012 06:26 pm (UTC)
I really got a kick out of the fact that two amateurs were the ones who saw it first and recorded the impact!
Sep. 11th, 2012 06:30 pm (UTC)
I know! I love that sort of thing. Now the pros (who happened to have their instruments trained on Jupiter - not as many as the amateurs) will go through their imagery to see what else they can learn.

But it's the people who brought you this news, not the institutions!
Sep. 11th, 2012 06:43 pm (UTC)
Jupiter acts as a gatekeeper to the inner system, absorbing incoming comets and whipping the rest out of the solar system. If it wasn't there, there would be a lot more loose rocks floating around in irregular orbits.

Of course, Astronomers have done the models: If it wasn't there, it wouldn't be *pulling most of the comets in in the first place*. Seriously - Jupiter's gravity perturbs the solar system and makes things lose their otherwise stable orbit, CREATING comets.
Sep. 11th, 2012 07:42 pm (UTC)
Excellent point! Without that big ol' gravity well swinging around out there, far fewer asteroids and comets would get tugged out of their nice, calm orbits. On the other hand, who knows how many more in long-ellipse orbits might be raining down upon the Inner Solar System without Jove? I wonder if it would be a wash, or worse, or better....
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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