Amateur astronomers observing from Austria and Ireland have observed an impact event on Jupiter. Reported late yesterday, it appears that a meteor met its end when it plunged through the giant planet’s stratified cloud decks.
In a now famous event, Jupiter came under attack back in 1994 by the fragmented remnants of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9, rendered asunder by the fierce tidal interaction between the comet’s nucleus and the giant planet’s gravity. I was among many who observed the aftermath of the collision, the first event of its kind ever observed within the solar system. I recall well seeing the dark blemish on the otherwise banded and mottled, cream-yellow-pearl colored face of Jupiter. The combined energy of all the fragments moving at 60 km/sec imparted an equivalent energy of 33 billion Hiroshima class weapons to Jupiter! If this occurred here, it would have meant the end of all life on earth. Such a possibility remains today as an existential threat, not only from comets but from NEO’s (Near Earth Objects) and rogue asteroids.
Since the 1994 Shoemaker-Levy9 impact, other such events have occurred. Most recently was the impact of a cometary nucleus or asteroid on 11 June, 2010. Accelerating and drawn towards the giant planet by its powerful gravity, it descended and struck the planet’s cloudtops and disintegrated, producing a flash of light so bright that it was visible in backyard telescopes on Earth.
March 17, 2016 Impact Event recorded by John Mckeon in Dublin
March 17, 2016 Impact Event recorded by Gerret from Mödling, Austria
Jupiter is the largest planet in the solar system with a radius over 10 times that of earth and a mass of 267 that of earth. As such, it’s density is only 1/4 of earth’s, indicating that it is composed mostly of gas and chemical ices in its stratified atmosphere with a slushy hydrogen-helium core. Begun last year and known as project OPAL (Outer Planet Atmospheres Legacy program), astronomers from UC Berkeley have assisted the Hubble Space Telescope team to compile a full HD video of a rotating Jupiter using data from the Hubble Space Telescope. The giant planet’s multi-colored bands and famed Great Red Spot stand out in breathtaking detail among its swirling clouds in this dramatic new video. Berkeley astronomer and Hubble Team Member, Michael Wong, was interviewed in a Hubble Hangout session to discuss his role in the project.
Jupiter in 4K Ultra HD
Imagination is more important than knowledge
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