Planetary imager and longtime Astronomy magazine contributor Christopher Go from Cebu, Philippines, and amateur astronomer Anthony Wesley from Murrumbateman, Australia, have captured yet another impact on Jupiter. The fireball appeared in the giant planet’s atmosphere June 3 at 20h30m Universal Time (4:30 P.M. EDT).
In an e-mail to Astronomy that includes impact images and even a video, Go writes, “Today was supposed to be a routine imaging run. Seeing [a measure of atmospheric steadiness] was perfect. The boring side of Jupiter [the one away from the Great Red Spot] was facing Earth. On my second image sequence using a blue filter, I luckily imaged an impact. I did not see this when it happened, but Anthony Wesley saw this in Australia. Anthony sent an alert on this suspected impact and I was able to confirm this with my video.”
This impact occurred within Jupiter’s recently faded South Equatorial Belt. Go said that this is good timing because it will make it easier to find a dark remnant from the blast, if one appears. He finished his e-mail by saying, “I would like congratulate my friend Anthony Wesley for having such a sharp eye on this historic find!”
Jupiter has been the target of several impactors within the last two decades. In July 1994, 21 fragments of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 hit the planet. More recently, a 0.3-mile-wide (0.5 kilometer) asteroid struck Jupiter July 18, 2009. Wesley also was the first to spot that impact, which galvanized the astronomical community into studying the collision site.