Amateur Australian astronomer spots Earth-sized asteroid crash on Jupiter
Worlds in Collision
An amateur 'backyard astronomer' peering through his telescope from his home in rural Australia has spotted a galactic event that Nasa's own star-gazers had missed.
: Photo: Anthony Wesley/REUTERS
Anthony Wesley, a computer programmer from Murrumbateman, a village north of Canberra, discovered that a comet or asteroid the size of the Earth had crashed into Jupiter, leaving a vast crater.
His timing was impeccable. Not only does it come as the world celebrates the 40th anniversary of man's first steps on the moon, but the impact would only have been visible for another few days.
The collision was confirmed by Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which uses a large infrared telescope positioned at the summit of the Mauna Kea volcano in Hawaii to capture an image of the crater, near the gas giant's south pole. Within hours, his images had spread across the internet on science websites and amateur astronomers around the world were raving about the discovery.
News of the impact came on the 15th anniversary of another comet strike on Jupiter. In 1994, the planet was bombarded by pieces of the comet Shoemaker-Levy 9.
Glenn Orton, the Nasa scientist who confirmed the discovery, told the Sydney Morning Herald: "We are extremely lucky to be seeing Jupiter at exactly the right time, the right hour, the right side of Jupiter to witness the event. We couldn't have planned it better."
Mr Orton said he was not yet sure whether the object that hit Jupiter was a comet, asteroid or a piece of space junk. But the impact mark was about the size of the Earth.
"It's been a whirlwind of a day and this, on the anniversary of the Shoemaker-Levy 9 and Apollo anniversaries, is amazing," he said.
Leigh Fletcher, an astronomer who worked with Mr Orton on confirming the discovery, said: "These are the most exciting observations I've seen in my five years of observing the outer planets."
However, to most people the image of the crater appears as little more than a scar on Jupiter's vast gas surface.
Mr Wesley, who was using a 14.5 inch backyard telescope, said it took him 30 minutes to realise a dark spot rotating in Jupiter's clouds on July 19 was a new crater.
"I thought [it] likely to be just a normal dark polar storm," he said.
"However as it rotated further into view and the conditions improved I suddenly realised that it wasn't just dark, it was black in all channels, meaning it was truly a black spot."
By Bonnie Malkin in Sydney
Published: 12:58PM BST 21 Jul 2009
Published: 12:58PM BST 21 Jul 2009
From The Telegraph - http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/space/5878319/Amateur-Australian-astronomer-spots-asteroid-crash-on-Jupiter.html
New Illuminati comments; A fourteen year old just remarked – “‘Earth-sized? Doesn’t that make it a planet, not an asteroid or comet?’ He qualified his comment with the following ‘Of course, to be a “planet” it has to have a more stable orbit.’
Indeed. But when I was fourteen years old, such occurrences as this and the ‘String of Pearls’ collisions – which could easily terminate all life on this planet if they occurred on Earth – were taught to be impossible. The solar system had supposedly been ‘swept clean’ of such dangers by billions of years of interactions with gas giants, just like the one this week. Immanuel Velikovsky and other supporters of so-called ‘catastrophism’ were vilified, ostracised and often hounded to their graves.
It’s possible the object that left its mark on Jupiter was smaller than Earth-sized; but still…
We live on a spinning, wobbling ball of rock in an unstable debris-cluttered solar system sailing through a debris-cluttered galaxy. The only thing keeping us alive is the ability of life to alter the odds in its favour – not merely by material means, but by the inherent ability of consciousness to mould reality.
Live long and prosper!
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