Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Hubble scrutinizes site of mysterious flash and missing cloud belt on Jupiter

Date:
June 20, 2010
Source:
ESA/Hubble Information Centre
Summary:
New and detailed observations from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope have provided insights into two recent events on Jupiter: the mysterious flash of light seen on June 3 and the recent disappearance of the planet's dark Southern Equatorial Belt.

Credit: Image courtesy of ESA/Hubble Information Centre

New and detailed observations from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope have provided insights into two recent events on Jupiter: the mysterious flash of light seen on 3 June and the recent disappearance of the planet's dark Southern Equatorial Belt.

At 22:31 (CEST) on June 3, 2010, Australian amateur astronomer Anthony Wesley saw a two-second-long flash of light on the disc of Jupiter. He was watching a live video feed from his telescope. In the Philippines, amateur astronomer Chris Go confirmed that he had simultaneously recorded the transitory event on video. Wesley was the discoverer of the now world-famous July 2009 impact.

Astronomers around the world suspected that something significant must have hit the giant planet to unleash a flash of energy bright enough to be seen here on Earth, about 770 million kilometres away. But they didn't know how just how big it was or how deeply it had penetrated into the atmosphere. Over the past two weeks there have been ongoing searches for the "black-eye" pattern of a deep direct hit like those left by former impactors.

The sharp vision and ultraviolet sensitivity of the Wide Field Camera 3 aboard the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope were used to seek out any trace evidence of the aftermath of the cosmic collision. Images taken on 7 June -- just over three days after the flash was sighted -- show no sign of debris above Jupiter's cloud tops. This means that the object didn't descend beneath the clouds and explode as a fireball. If it had done, then dark sooty blast debris would have been ejected and would have rained down onto the clouds.

Instead the flash is thought to have come from a giant meteor burning up high above Jupiter's cloud tops, which did not plunge deep enough into the atmosphere to explode and leave behind any telltale cloud of debris, as seen in previous Jupiter collisions.

"The cloud tops and the impact site would have appeared dark in the ultraviolet and visible images due to debris from an explosion," says team member Heidi Hammel of the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado, USA. "We can see no feature that has those distinguishing characteristics in the known vicinity of the impact, suggesting there was no major explosion and no 'fireball'."

Dark smudges marred Jupiter's atmosphere when a series of fragments of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 hit Jupiter in July 1994. A similar phenomenon occurred in July 2009 when a suspected asteroid slammed into Jupiter. The latest intruder is estimated to be only a fraction of the size of these previous impactors and is thought to have been a meteor.

"Observations of these impacts provide a window on the past -- onto the processes that shaped our Solar System in its early history," says team member Leigh Fletcher of the University of Oxford, UK. "Comparing the two collisions -- from 2009 and 2010 -- will hopefully yield insights into the types of impact processes in the outer Solar System, and the physical and chemical response of Jupiter's atmosphere to these amazing events."

As a bonus, Hubble's observations also allowed scientists to get a close-up look at changes in Jupiter's atmosphere following the disappearance of the dark cloud feature known as the Southern Equatorial Belt several months ago.

In the Hubble view, a slightly higher altitude layer of white ammonia ice crystal clouds appears to obscure the deeper, darker belt clouds. "Weather forecast for Jupiter's Southern Equatorial Belt: cloudy with a chance of ammonia," Hammel says.

The team predicts that these ammonia clouds should clear out in a few months, as they have done in the past. The clearing of the ammonia cloud layer should begin with a number of dark spots like those seen by Hubble along the boundary of the south tropical zone.

"The Hubble images tell us these spots are holes resulting from localised downdrafts. We often see these types of holes when a change is about to occur," Simon-Miller says.

"The Southern Equatorial Belt last faded in the early 1970s. We haven't been able to study this phenomenon at this level of detail before," Simon-Miller adds. "The changes of the last few years are adding to an extraordinary database on dramatic cloud changes on Jupiter."

The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between ESA and NASA.

The Jupiter Impact Science Team consists of Amy Simon-Miller (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, USA); John T. Clarke (Boston University, USA); Leigh Fletcher (University of Oxford, UK); Heidi B. Hammel (Space Science Institute, USA); Keith S. Noll (Space Telescope Science Institute, USA); Glenn S. Orton (Jet Propulsion Laboratory, USA); Agustin Sanchez-Lavega (Universidad del Pais Vasco, Spain); Michael H. Wong and Imke de Pater (University of California -- Berkeley, USA).


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by ESA/Hubble Information Centre. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

ESA/Hubble Information Centre. "Hubble scrutinizes site of mysterious flash and missing cloud belt on Jupiter." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 June 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100616102856.htm>.
ESA/Hubble Information Centre. (2010, June 20). Hubble scrutinizes site of mysterious flash and missing cloud belt on Jupiter. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 17, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100616102856.htm
ESA/Hubble Information Centre. "Hubble scrutinizes site of mysterious flash and missing cloud belt on Jupiter." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100616102856.htm (accessed September 17, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

East Coast Treated To Rare Meteor Sighting

East Coast Treated To Rare Meteor Sighting

Newsy (Sep. 16, 2014) — Numerous residents along the East Coast reported seeing a bright meteor flash through the sky Sunday night. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Space Race Pits Bezos Vs Musk

Space Race Pits Bezos Vs Musk

Reuters - Business Video Online (Sep. 16, 2014) — Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos' startup will team up with Boeing and Lockheed to develop rocket engines as Elon Musk races to have his rockets certified. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
NASA’s Curiosity Rover Finally Reaches Long-Term Goal

NASA’s Curiosity Rover Finally Reaches Long-Term Goal

Newsy (Sep. 15, 2014) — After more than two years, NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover reached Mount Sharp, its long-term destination. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
SpaceX's Elon Musk Really Wants To Colonize Mars

SpaceX's Elon Musk Really Wants To Colonize Mars

Newsy (Sep. 14, 2014) — Elon Musk has been talking about his goal of colonizing Mars for years now, but how much of it does he actually have figured out, and is it possible? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

    Environment News

      Technology News



      Save/Print:
      Share:  

      Free Subscriptions


      Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

      Get Social & Mobile


      Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

      Have Feedback?


      Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
      Mobile iPhone Android Web
      Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
      Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
      Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins