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The comet or asteroid hit near Jupiter's South Pole. The color part of this picture shows the area of the impact magnified. There is a white, oval storm. Do you see the black patch below the white oval? That is where the comet or asteroid hit!
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Images courtesy of NASA, ESA, and H. Hammel (Space Science Institute, Boulder, Colo.), and the Jupiter Impact Team.

Impact on Jupiter - July 2009

Anthony Wesley is an amateur astronomer in Australia. On the night of July 19, 2009, Wesley noticed a dark spot on Jupiter that hadn't been there before. He had discovered the remains of a huge impact on Jupiter! A comet or asteroid had collided with the giant planet. The impact left a dark "scar" in Jupiter's atmosphere where the comet or asteroid had exploded.

Nobody saw the object it hit Jupiter. We don't know whether it was a comet or an asteroid. The comet or asteroid was probably a few hundred meters (less than a mile) across. It exploded in Jupiter's upper atmosphere. The explosion made a cloud of debris as big as the planet Mars! It also made a dark smear in Jupiter's atmosphere near the planet's South Pole. The dark smear is about as big as the Pacific Ocean.

Jupiter was hit by another comet not too long ago. In 1994 several pieces of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 crashed into Jupiter. Scientists knew that collision was coming. They were ready to watch it.

This time around astronomers didn't know that something was going to hit Jupiter. It is lucky that Anthony Wesley was watching. After Wesley reported the impact, lots of other astronomers pointed their telescopes at Jupiter. The Hubble Space Telescope snapped a nice picture. The Keck telescope in Hawaii also took a picture... in infrared "light". Those pictures will help scientists learn about large impacts.

Last modified August 21, 2009 by Randy Russell.

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