Fireball on Jupiter

From Spaceweather.com

On August 20th at 18:22 UT, two amateur astronomers in Japan independently recorded an apparent impact on Jupiter. Masayuki Tachikawa of Kumamoto city was first to report the event. His movie of the fireball shows the fireball scintillating (twinkling) along with other features on the planet — persuasive evidence that this is a genuine event on Jupiter. Soon after Tachikawa made his report, Tokyo amateur astronomer Kazuo Aoki realized that he had recorded the fireball, too:

The ~800 km separation of the two observers rules out an event near Earth and reinforces the association of the fireball with Jupiter. The most likely explanation: A small comet or asteroid hit the giant planet.

This is the third time in only 13 months that amateur astronomers have detected signs of impact on Jupiter. The earlier events occured on July 19, 2009, and June 3, 2010. Jupiter is getting hit more often than conventional wisdom would suggest, leading many researchers to call for a global network of telescopes to monitor Jupiter 24/7 and measure the impact rate.

“Like the event of June 3rd, this fireball did not produce any visible debris,” notes John Rogers, director of the British Astronomical Association’s Jupiter section. “Here are some hi-resolution images taken 1-2 rotations before and 1-2 rotations after the event. As the observers commented, there was no visible mark (not in RGB, nor UV, nor methane), post-impact. Dark brown spots on the North Equatorial Belt were already there before the fireball.”

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Jupiter’s impact reminds us all of this:

Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (PHAs) are space rocks larger than approximately 100m that can come closer to Earth than 0.05 AU. None of the known PHAs is on a collision course with our planet, although astronomers are finding new ones all the time.

On August 24, 2010 there were 1144 potentially hazardous asteroids.

Recent & Upcoming Earth-asteroid encounters:

Asteroid
Date(UT)
Miss Distance
Mag.
Size
2005 NZ6
Aug 14
60.5 LD
18
1.3 km
2002 CY46
Sep 2
63.8 LD
16
2.4 km
2010 LY63
Sep 7
56 LD
18
1.2 km
2009 SH2
Sep 30
7.1 LD
25
45 m
1998 UO1
Oct 1
32.1 LD
17
2.1 km
2005 GE59
Oct 1
77 LD
18
1.1 km
2001 WN5
Oct 10
41.8 LD
18
1.0 km
1999 VO6
Oct 14
34.3 LD
17
1.8 km
1998 TU3
Oct 17
69.1 LD
15
5.3 km
1998 MQ
Oct 23
77.7 LD
17
1.9 km
2007 RU17
Oct 29
40.6 LD
18
1.0 km
2003 UV11
Oct 30
5 LD
19
595 m
3838 Epona
Nov 7
76.8 LD
16
3.4 km
2005 QY151
Nov 16
77.7 LD
18
1.3 km
2008 KT
Nov 23
5.6 LD
28
10 m
2002 EZ16
Nov 30
73.9 LD
18
1.0 km
2000 JH5
Dec 7
47 LD
17
1.5 km

Notes: LD means “Lunar Distance.” 1 LD = 384,401 km, the distance between Earth and the Moon. 1 LD also equals 0.00256 AU. MAG is the visual magnitude of the asteroid on the date of closest approach.

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51 thoughts on “Fireball on Jupiter

  1. Well if a Potentially Hazardous Asteroid was found that was on a collision course, that would certainly put all the AGW spending on hold while we figured out how to save us from the Asteroid.

  2. Never ceases to amaze me.. That fireball blot on the image is roughly the size of earth.. I mean I like explosions and fire as much as the next guy, but wow!

  3. Seems strange so many asteroids/small comets hitting Jupiter over such a short period?

    I wonder if it could be some sort of electromagnetic plasma phenomenon?

  4. It may just be that Jupiter, acting in effect as a giant asteroid magnet, regularly sucks in many more objects than we had previously estimated. And just now do we have the kind of volunteer telescopic coverage needed to provide evidence of that.

  5. Is man made global warming causing an increase in comet impacts on Jupiter?

    ( sorry, feeling daft, couldn’t resist )

  6. It is a good thing that we have Jupiter to draw these things in. If they are traveling through space at 50,000mph they would easily cover the distance between Jupiters orbit and our own within a year. By this time next year, we could be feeling those instead

  7. Jeff in Calgary says:
    August 24, 2010 at 10:07 am
    Well if a Potentially Hazardous Asteroid was found that was on a collision course, that would certainly put all the AGW spending on hold while we figured out how to save us from the Asteroid.

    Wouldn’t NASA first have to assure the Muslim world of its importance in the discovery of said PHA?

  8. So an asteriod was supposed to have killed all the dinosaurs on earth and caused world-wide climate change. Are we seeing that happening in Jupiter?

  9. wws says:
    August 24, 2010 at 10:11 am

    It may just be that Jupiter, acting in effect as a giant asteroid magnet, regularly sucks in many more objects than we had previously estimated. And just now do we have the kind of volunteer telescopic coverage needed to provide evidence of that.

    I agree. The recent flurry of observations may be just chance (the “proverbial” lucky streak), but perhaps more amateurs are monitoring Jupiter than in the past. Comet Shoemaker-Levy must have provided some impetus, though its impacts left dark regions that persisted quite a while. The recent impacts without lasting marks have really proven that fulltime monitoring is important.

    Amateur astronomers are much more welcome in the professional astronomy community than amateur climatologists are in the professional climatology community. Perhaps eventually the two groups will figure out that they both want to find new knowledge and that each can help the other. We seem to have a ways to go.

    The gas giants do manage to sweep up, eject, or knock things out of the solar system plane and that reduces the number of impacts on Earth. Kinda nice that they’re out there!

  10. A large object hitting Earth would definitely result in Climate Change.

    Oddly enough and totally coincidentally, I watched Deep Impact last night. It really was a good movie.

  11. The number of impacts on Jupiter is extremely unsettling.

    There but for the grace of God……….

  12. Why do amateurs are always the first ones in spotting these events while great sages are only able to watch for their wrinkles on their faces-to correct them asap with botox ?

  13. Having Jupiter where it is to draw off killer asteroids, well and truly validates the hypothesis that surrounding cities with trailer home parks draws off tornadoes. Hey! It’s as valid as the concept of man changing the global climate.

    Hee hee. Sometimes I just kill myself.

  14. It’s interesting that the impact zone is in the northern hemisphere (the images are inverted in a telescope). Most reported impacts are in the South, and that is where we have seen the most volatility in the Jovian atmosphere; new red spots, fading of cloud bands, recovery of the same.

    John Cross argues that Jupiter weather is a result of internal volatility, that the planet supplies it’s own power through gravitational compression. This is convenient for him because we can not see the interior to prove it one way or the other.

    The strongest evidence we have that Jupiter’s weather is due to the planet putting on weight is that the majority of the observable “weight gain” coincides with the South, where we see the climate changing.

    This could become a sort of test for the theory. Will the North develop unusual weather patterns due to this northern impact?

    I’m interested to see.

  15. My estimate is, that it was bright as Ganymed, so it would have visual magnitude -29.5, that’s 14.5 times brighter than Sun, if flash was at distance of 100 km on Earth.
    V(flash)= V(Ganymed)= 4.4 mag
    V(Sun)= -26.6
    D(Jupiter)= 612.5 *10^6 km

  16. Seeing as how only amateurs witnessed this, I need to wait until a state-funded astronomer chimes in to determine whether or not this really happened. Folks outside of the establishment are not to be trusted. Does Kerry Emaneul have a degree in astronomy perchance?

  17. Note also that similar flash on Saturn would have magnitude 6.4, so we can expect also flashes on Saturn.

  18. “Seeing as how only amateurs witnessed this, I need to wait until a state-funded astronomer chimes in to determine whether or not this really happened. Folks outside of the establishment are not to be trusted. Does Kerry Emaneul have a degree in astronomy perchance?”

    Don’t worry, they will. Research telescopes (like Keck and others) are typically looking at the many millions of other objects in the sky, such as galaxies, asteroids, individual stars, looking for exoplanets, etc. You get a lot more new data and discoveries this way instead of putting multi-million dollar telescopes on each of the planets at all times.

    Standard procedure (at least as I’ve noticed) is that the impacts are reported, and they’ll turn Hubble or other optical (maybe some infrared) scopes on Jupiter and wait for the area that was hit to come back around. You don’t need a degree in astronomy to make a discovery, but the more you know the more likely it becomes.

    Amateur astronomers are a great asset to astronomy is this way…they always have their eyes in the sky and can find things or events that would normally be missed by the big telescopes.

  19. galileonardo says:
    August 24, 2010 at 11:43 am
    They have signed a contract in a parallel universe with the dark side on antimatter paper….
    Kind of selling their soul, ya know….Something we couldn’t do it because it goes against our inherited from hard working parents principles.

  20. Jupiter is said to be a “failed star” which is hot within, as Earth is. This could just have been a Jupiter-style volcanic explosion. Jupiter always shows spots and belts, and nobody understands their formation, so presumably Jupiter features a surface dynamism which causes lots of events which we look at like a deer in headlights.

  21. Enneagram says:
    August 24, 2010 at 11:17 am
    “Why do amateurs are always the first ones in spotting these events while great sages are only able to watch for their wrinkles on their faces-to correct them asap with botox ?”

    Think about it. The big bucks and the big scopes are looking wa-a-a-a-ay out there in the universe. The amateurs have don’t have the same horsepower, so they keep an eye on the local neighborhood. That said, the quality of the images that amateurs come up with nowadays is awesome.

    Advances in technology trickle down to a broader base of users over time. I’m hoping for some stories from the serious amateur astronomers that hang out here telling about the good ol’ days when they had to grind their own lenses out of empty coke bottles and could barely see down to the sign at the 4-way stop. Now, good quality equipment is reasonably priced, fom the ads I’ve seen.

  22. Jupiter’s well-known as the Solar System’s own “Hoover” (Or maybe “Dyson” as it’s a ball!), sucking up the potentially life-threatening objects that have sufficiently eccentric orbits to intersect Earth’s orbit.
    Saturn may have a role, but it’s mass is substantially less than that of Jupiter.
    The role of the amateur astronomer in planetary and lunar observation is both well established and respected by their professional counterparts, who’s telescope time is both limited and devoted to deep sky observation.

  23. NZ Willy says:
    August 24, 2010 at 12:08 pm
    What about the three million amperes electric arc Mariner detected between Jupiter and Io?, its volcanoes were powered from the outside…but that’s forbidden science, just to whisper about.

  24. Oh, re NZ Willy.
    Jupiter has no “surface” as such, its a gas giant, probably with a rocky core, but such is the pressure deep within it, the gaseous elements are so compressed (Even at the high temperatures existing within) that the Hydrogen is turned to a liquid, exhibiting metallic properties.
    Volcanism isn’t possible with such internal structures, the escape velocity needed to propel gases from the core region, is immense.

  25. who’s telescope time is both limited and devoted to deep sky observation.

    Where they find everything awesome and inexplicable….by their gravity only astronomy.

  26. Jupiter may be the Hoover of the Solar System (with Saturn its Minivac?), but it’s also the bull in the china shop. Its gravity (along with that of Saturn and the other gas giants) is what perturbs comets and asteroids into those dangerously elliptical orbits it scavenges. On balance we’d probably be a bit safer without it.

  27. Shows once more that you can not have enough observational data, more is always better.

    I predict that in the near future a group of amateur astronomers will announce their own discovery of an Exo Planet. It can be done since the pro’s have already shown that it is possible with of the shelf equipment. Its still expensive but a group of amateur astronomers could pull this one off.

    Its only a matter of time.

  28. Enneagram says:
    August 24, 2010 at 11:17 am

    The amatuers are finding these things first because they don’t have to wait in line at the Big Scopes.
    Congress has mandated NASA find and keep track of all incoming, but never saw fit to fund it.
    Yeah, and some are worried about a few tenths of a degree warming.
    Feel the power of millions of degrees when one of those bright flashes on Jupiter sneaks by and finds Earth.

  29. Digital cameras have gotten cheaper and better, so photo-astronomy is accessible to more folks. Planets are good targets for those who live near urban light pollution.

    I think it is sad that development means more lights at night, and we’ve lost the view of the brilliant and beautiful sky. The nearest truly dark sky from where I live is almost a 2 hour drive.

  30. rbateman says:
    August 24, 2010 at 12:59 pm
    …or perhaps they don’t have anything to lose, like self conceit. :-)

  31. Yes, it seems it’s only a matter of time. Take a look at the “data” at the Holocene Impact Group for the amazing number of hits, probable hits, and possibilities to be investigated.
    Can’t remember the dates, but something like 24 ocean impacts (oceans 70% of Earth’s surface, right?) were discovered in a matter of a few years, with just the beginning of this kind of research. A much better way to spend our dollars than wasting a focus on essential-for-life CO2.

  32. Jeff in Calgary says: “Well if a Potentially Hazardous Asteroid was found that was on a collision course, that would certainly put all the AGW spending on hold while we figured out how to save us from the Asteroid.”

    Imagine what would happen if we all wake up some night with the entire planet jiggling underneath us and find that a billion people have been snuffed because Warmists diverted a trillion dollars to fighting imaginary warming instead of finding PHA’s.

  33. NZ Willy says: “Jupiter is said to be a “failed star” which is hot within, as Earth is. This could just have been a Jupiter-style volcanic explosion. Jupiter always shows spots and belts, and nobody understands their formation, so presumably Jupiter features a surface dynamism which causes lots of events which we look at like a deer in headlights.”

    An astronomer friend of mine said that Jupiter emits more heat than it should. He attributed this anomaly to low-level radioactivity.

  34. Why does everyone think of the earth but no one thinks of the asteroids? Maybe we should destroy the Earth so as to protect the asteroid from destruction. We must not take an ethnocentric… or rather a geocentric position and favor Earth over other bodies just because we live on it. Frankly, such bias smacks of favoritism – maybe even racism of some sort. Don’t be a hater.

  35. Or we’re witnessing the start of the next great red spot due to induction from jupiter sweeping through the heliosphere.

  36. Buffoon – from your comments can we conclude that you are a follower of the so called `electric sun’ hypothesis? Congratulations in that case on your highly appropriate choice of pseudonym.

  37. I wouldn’t be suprised to hear that Jupiter is warmer than it should be and it’s all because of Anthroprogenic Galactic Warming. It can only be a matter of days before some university climatologist announces: “If Earth weren’t so hot with manmade CO2 these impacts on Jupiter wouldn’t be happening as frequently has they have been in the past century; manmade CO2 causes perturbations in the fabric of the solar system and what we see happening on Jupiter will soon happen on Earth; we are destroying the Universe.”

    I’ll bet the first Climatologist with a PhD in Zuni Basket Making Environmental Impact to say that outloud is going to be invited to the Oval Office and nominated for a Noball Prize in Ecological Physics! Watch! They’ll probably also be invited on The View too.

  38. I had heard that if a person could outrun his own stench after having soiled himself miserably he’d be the fastest person alive.

    Well at least we now know where James “stinker” Cameron flew off to. o_O

  39. With that many near misses (1044) and the larger ones listed and all of these occurring between august and december, this article could have been more informative. Is there a belt of these in a strip that intersects the E orbit between aug-dec? What is the probability of a hit (we don’t need McI and McK’s statistical powers to calc this? All we need to know is the orbit of the strip. The orbit of the strip must cut the edge of E orbit during aug-dec. otherwise we would come into the strip twice in one year. Surely for the worst potential hazard to the planet, this work must have ben done.

  40. Gee, if only the telescopes had a fine enough resolution, then we could have actually seen the incoming black monolith…

    Hey, it is 2010 after all. Although if we have (C)AGW proponents portending doom from even a single extra Watt per square meter being absorbed, imagine what could happen with another star, albeit a tiny one, in the same solar system with Earth. Here come the barbecue winters!

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