July 21, 2009

An earth-sized hole in Jupiter...

... discovered by an amateur, Anthony Wesley, a 44-year-old Australian, who wrote on line:
I came back to the scope at about 12:40am I noticed a dark spot rotating into view in Jupiters south polar region started to get curious. When first seen close to the limb (and in poor conditions) it was only a vaguely dark spot, I thought likely to be just a normal dark polar storm. 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....

It took another 15 minutes to really believe that I was seeing something new - I’d imaged that exact region only 2 days earlier and checking back to that image showed no sign of any anomalous black spot.

Now I was caught between a rock and a hard place - I wanted to keep imaging but also I was aware of the importance of alerting others to this possible new event. Could it actually be an impact mark on Jupiter? I had no real idea, and the odds on that happening were so small as to be laughable, but I was really struggling to see any other possibility given the location of the mark. If it really was an impact mark then I had to start telling people, and quickly....

28 comments:

Lem said...

If it really was an impact mark then I had to start telling people, and quickly....

I still remember back in the day posting a “virus alert” on a popular board (way b4 the blogs) and getting an onslaught of belittling insults. It really embarrassing.

Lem said...

It was

Bissage said...

Wow! This impact on Jupiter blows my mind. You see, I, too, am an amateur astronomer and I captured this photo just the other night.

Coincidence?

I think not!

junyo said...

I propose this as the new location for the National Money Hole:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JnX-D4kkPOQ
Bet that'll hold $23,000,000,000,000.00 bucks, and give us the security of knowing that we have the capacity to throw money down a hole into the foreseeable future.

AllenS said...

Jupiter just received its stimulus.

LarsPorsena said...

I saw this guy's initial post and photos the other day but they had me confused.

It was stated that the impact was near Jupiter's southern pole but his photo had the blemish in the upper part of the northern hemisphere.
Was the image flipped?

Crimso said...

Well that's twice in the last 15 yrs we've noticed something that must have been relatively large hit Jupiter. Granted it's a big target, but we know it's only a matter of time (and probably not all that much) until something hits us that will cause a major disruption. If you're not familiar with Tunguska, check it out. Imagine if that had hit somewhere along the northeastern seaboard of the U.S. Between climate change and stuff falling out of the sky, I'm inclined to believe that the latter is a MUCH greater threat to the existence of the human species (and probably a lot easier to do something about).

Original Mike said...

@LarsPorsens: Telescopic images are inverted, so the south pole appears at the top.

Smilin' Jack said...

Between climate change and stuff falling out of the sky, I'm inclined to believe that the latter is a MUCH greater threat to the existence of the human species...

I certainly hope so. I've always thought that when my time comes, I'd like to go in an asteroid impact that instantly destroys all life on earth. That way I won't feel like I'm missing anything.

Original Mike said...

Hmm. I think you're onto something, Jack.

Ann Althouse said...

@Original Mike. Oh! I thought it was because he was in Australia. Like the way the drains go in the opposite direction....

Original Mike said...

Ann, you're right!

Telescopic images (i.e. what you see in the eyepiece) are inverted, but with an image you can flip it no problem, so there's potentially more than one thing going on.

rhhardin said...

They're having a hard time measuring global warming on Jupiter, with all this new crap in the atmosphere.

The Drill SGT said...

Althouse,

Im with Crimso, the money quote is in the last para:

Mr. Wesley told the Sydney Morning Herald that spotting the impact mark on Jupiter made him glad the huge planet is in Earth’s neighborhood: “If anything like that had hit the Earth it would have been curtains for us, so we can feel very happy that Jupiter is doing its vacuum-cleaner job and hoovering up all these large pieces before they come for us.”

Lem said...

They're having a hard time measuring global warming on Jupiter, with all this new crap in the atmosphere.

Another reason to have another stimulus. You nailed it rh ;)

Cedarford said...

"Ann Althouse said...
@Original Mike. Oh! I thought it was because he was in Australia. Like the way the drains go in the opposite direction...."

Very small effect. Enough if acting over long time to influence cyclones to go clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere and hurricanes go counter-clockwise. It doesn't work well on drains or toilets - which are VORTEXES!! Determinant on initial water movement and change in potential energy to KE displayed through the cohesiveness of the moving fluid to drag standing fluid in the same direction with the VORTEX growing in size and speed until equilibrium. Introduction of air makes it go faster because internal friction of the working fluid is lessened..

-----------------
BTW, kudos to the Aussie. He is now what passes for a "rock star" in the community of the stargazing "dweebs".
Amateurs in astronomy have made great contributions. Many of the great names, like Copernicus, were just avid amateur hobbyists until they found something that really interested them and made the bobby into a pasion and a labor of a lifetime.

Original Mike said...

Well, no, it's not the Coriolis effect. But, an Australian is essentially standing on his head (from a Northerner's point of view) when observing Jupiter.

Cabbage said...

Well that's twice in the last 15 yrs we've noticed something that must have been relatively large hit Jupiter. Granted it's a big target, but we know it's only a matter of time (and probably not all that much) until something hits us that will cause a major disruption.

Jupiter, bringer of Jollity

OR

Jupiter, bouncer to the inner solar system

Methadras said...

Jupiter is considered the vacuum of the Solar System. I wonder how many innumerable impacts it has absorbed through it's gravitational pull and saved the inner planets from total destruction. I'm sure an impact like that on earth would have devastated it completely judging from the size of the impact on Jupiter's face.

Michael McNeil said...

Jupiter is considered the vacuum of the Solar System. I wonder how many innumerable impacts it has absorbed through it's gravitational pull and saved the inner planets from total destruction.

Probably quite a few. However, Jupiter can also take a body that's otherwise been safely orbiting for innumerable eons in the outer Solar System and toss it towards the inner planets. My guess is such an effect is at least as likely as objects that actually run into Jupiter — however space is vast and there's room for lots of objects (such as the Earth-orbit-crossing “Apollo” asteroids — which may indeed, some of them, have been placed on their present paths by Jupiter) to circulate in the vicinity of Earth, Mars, et al., with only an occasional actual impact — but when they do, BOOM!

Joe said...

How about we return to science and point out that impact is just a hypothesis, not a conclusion.

NKVD said...

I blame Bush.

Michael McNeil said...

How about we return to science and point out that impact is just a hypothesis, not a conclusion.

Correct. However, the Shoemaker-Levy comet, after a close encounter with Jupiter 17 years back whose gravity during that close approach likely tore that comet apart into more than a dozen fragments all stretched out into a line, were observed impacting Jupiter two years later, producing a temporary dark wound spot on the planet that looks very similar to what's being seen now.

MayBee said...

I actually got goosebumps reading that.

traditionalguy said...

This could be Algore's time to switch from a Global Warming based disaster claiming all the world's money to fix, into a Asteroid based disaster claiming all the world's money to fix. Nevermind, a single asteroid will last too short of a time to suck out all the rubes' money. Only a "use of air" caused crisis is forever, unless NASA will say for money that there are more and bigger asteroids coming.

Original Mike said...

How about we return to science and point out that impact is just a hypothesis, not a conclusion..

I agree in principal with your sentiment, but I think that in this case there is little else it could be. We've seen the aftermath of an impact on Jupiter before (Shoemaker-Levy) and this is what it looked like. It would require a credible hypothesis that this was something else to put the impact hypothesis in serious doubt.

The Drill SGT said...

Now Shoemaker-Levy comet was a neat event

an ELE? not so cool

Methadras said...

Joe said...

How about we return to science and point out that impact is just a hypothesis, not a conclusion.


I have zero problem with you are saying. However, what would you say the alternative is?