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Changing Solar System

Insight Into: Impact Scars on Jupiter

What is leaving impact scars on Jupiter?

Credits

 
Our Dynamic Solar System
 
 
Produced by the Space Telescope Science Institute’s Office of Public Outreach.
 
All images, illustrations, and videos courtesy of NASA, ESA, and STScI except:
 
·       Amateur image of 2009 impact site on Jupiter courtesy of Anthony Wesley
·       Gemini North Telescope image of 2009 impact site on Jupiter courtesy of Imke de Pater (UC Berkeley), Heidi B. Hammel (Space Science Institute), Travis Rector (University of Alaska Anchorage), Gemini Observatory/AURA
·       Taurus constellation drawing from Firmamentum Sobiescianum sive Uranographia by Johannes Hevelius, courtesy of the United States Naval Observatory
·       1879 photo of Jupiter and Great Red Spot from A Popular History of Astronomy during the Nineteenth Century by Agnes M. Clerk (1885)
·       2014 image of Jupiter and Great Red Spot courtesy of Damian Peach
·       Infrared images of Uranus from Keck Observatory courtesy of Imke de Pater (UC Berkeley)/Keck Observatory
·       Animation showing axial tilts of solar system planets courtesy of Steven Sanders, Eastern University
·       Animation comparing axial tilts of Earth and Uranus courtesy of Steven Sanders, Eastern University
 
 
Written by Vanessa Thomas
Designed by Marc Lussier
Music courtesy of Associated Production Music
 
 

Transcript

(SPEECH) 
 [POP MUSIC] 


(DESCRIPTION) 
 animation of a laptop, a man, and a telescope 


One night in July 2009, an amateur astronomer was taking images of planet Jupiter through his personal telescope when he noticed something odd. 


A large black splotch had appeared in the planet's southern hemisphere. 


The observer quickly alerted professional astronomers, and telescopes around the world slewed toward Jupiter to take a look. 


They saw the new spot, too. 


Different photographs with the spot circled.


Hubble Space Telescope photograph with smudge circled.


Astronomers concluded that an asteroid or comet had recently slammed into Jupiter and exploded, creating the black mark. 


They had seen similar scars on Jupiter 15 years earlier. 


In 1994, fragments of a broken-up comet slammed into Jupiter, creating several large, long-lasting black marks in the planet's atmosphere. 


Hubble Telescope photo showing a line of black spots on the surface of the planet.


In 2009, Hubble and other telescopes followed the new impact site for months. 


They watched the black scar get stretched by Jupiter's ferocious winds and then eventually fade away. 


Before this impact, astronomers had predicted that Jupiter might go a century or more between such collisions. 


But with two dramatic impact events in 15 years, the solar system proved that it's a livelier place than ever thought.