Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.
2009 September 8
Explanation: Two months ago, something unexpected hit Jupiter. First discovered by an amateur astronomer Anthony Wesley on 2009 July 19, the impact was quickly confirmed and even imaged by the Hubble Space Telescope during the next week. Many of the world's telescopes then zoomed in on our Solar System's largest planet to see the result. Some of these images have been complied into the above animation. Over the course of the last month and a half, the above time-lapse sequence shows the dark spot -- first created when Jupiter was struck -- deforming and dissipating as Jupiter's clouds churned and Jupiter rotated. It is now thought that a small comet -- perhaps less than one kilometer across -- impacted Jupiter on or before 2009 July 19. Although initially expected to be visible for only a week, astronomers continue to track atmospheric remnants of the impact for new information about winds and currents in Jupiter's thick atmosphere.
Authors & editors:
Jerry Bonnell (UMCP)
NASA Official: Phillip Newman Specific rights apply.
A service of: ASD at NASA / GSFC
& Michigan Tech. U.