Monday, July 27, 2009

Jupiter Imact: Hubble Took a Look

"Hubble Telescope Photographs Jupiter Impact Site" (July 24, 2009)

"The unexpected impact of some space object with Jupiter, creating a dark bruise in the gas giant's atmosphere, proved a tempting enough target for scientists to put a hold on testing out the revamped Hubble Space Telescope and use its new camera to capture an image of the rare event.

"The plan, first reported by Spaceflight Now, was carried out yesterday so that astronomers could use the 19-year-old Hubble's unique capabilities to get an image of the spot, probably caused by a comet, before too many days had passed since the impact and Jupiter's atmosphere distorted the shape.

"The new Hubble image, released today, [Friday] shows a lumpiness to the debris plume caused by turbulence in Jupiter's atmosphere. The image is a natural color image of Jupiter in visible light...."

The dark patch is roughly the size of the Pacific Ocean, it seems. Which is pretty close to the headline I mentioned in an earlier post, saying that the hole in Jupiter's clouds was the size of Earth. Seen from space, the Pacific Ocean covers most of one side of this planet.

Why use Hubble? It gives the best, sharpest, look at Jupiter in visible wavelengths of any available telescope. "...Hubble managers decided that the impact event was rare enough and important enough to pause testing to get a look...."

This article gives a pretty good overview of what Hubble's observed, and what we know about the event on Jupiter. For one thing, the energy released in the impact was thousands of times more than what we experienced in the Tunguska event, back in 1908.

I've written before, about the prudence of setting up defenses before something leaves an ocean-size splat-mark on Earth.

Meanwhile, there's a lot to learn from that impact on Jupiter.

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