2009 Jupiter impact event

The 2009 Jupiter impact event, occasionally referred to as the Wesley impact, was a July 2009 impact on Jupiter that caused a black spot in the planet's atmosphere. The impact area covered 190 million square kilometers, similar in area to the planet's Little Red Spot and approximately the size of the Pacific Ocean.[3] The impactor is estimated to have been about 200 to 500 meters in diameter.[4] (For comparison, the one for the Tunguska event was estimated to be in the 60–190 meters range.)

2009 Jupiter impact event
Hubble image of the scar taken on July 23 showing a blemish of about 8,000 kilometres (5,000 mi) long[1][2]
DateJuly 19, 2009
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A picture of the 2009 impact mark captured by NASA Infrared Telescope Facility in Mauna Kea, Hawaii
Keck image of Jupiter impact
Large impact observed with Keck II telescope and its near-infrared camera at Mauna Kea, Hawaii, on July 20 11:20 UT
The Keck Subaru and Infrared obervatories
Keck Observatory (the two in the middle) and NASA Infrared Telescope Facility (right) at Mauna Kea, Hawaii


Amateur astronomer Anthony Wesley discovered the impact at approximately 13:30 UTC on 19 July 2009 (exactly 15 years after the Jupiter impacts of comet Shoemaker–Levy 9, or SL9). He was at his home observatory just outside Murrumbateman, New South Wales, Australia, using stacked images on a 14.5-inch (36.8 cm) diameter reflecting telescope equipped with a low light machine vision video camera attached to the telescope.[5] Wesley stated that

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.[6]

Wesley sent an e-mail to others including the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California reporting his observations.[7]


Paul Kalas and collaborators confirmed the sighting. They had time on the Keck II telescope in Hawaii, and had been planning to observe Fomalhaut b, but they spent some of their time looking at the Jupiter impact.[8] Infrared observation by Keck and the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility (IRTF)[3] at Mauna Kea showed a bright spot where the impact took place, indicating the impact warmed a 190 million square km area of the lower atmosphere at 305 W, 57 S near Jupiter's south pole.[3]

The spot's prominence indicated that it was composed of high-altitude aerosols similar to those seen during the SL9 impact.[8] Using near-infrared wavelengths and the IRTF, Glenn Orton and his team detected bright upwelling particles in the planet's upper atmosphere and using mid-infrared wavelengths, found possible extra emission of ammonia gas.[9]

The force of the explosion on Jupiter was thousands of times more powerful than the suspected comet or asteroid that exploded over the Tunguska River Valley in Siberia in June 1908.[2] (This would be approximately 12,500–13,000 Megatons of TNT, over a million times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.)[10]


The object that hit Jupiter was not identified before Wesley discovered the impact. A 2003 paper estimated comets with a diameter larger than 1.5 kilometers impact Jupiter about every 90 to 500 years,[11] while a 1997 survey suggested that the astronomer Cassini may have recorded an impact in 1690.[12]

Given the size of the SL9 impactors,[13] it is likely that this object was less than one kilometer in diameter.[2][14] Finding water at the site would indicate that the impactor was a comet,[15] as opposed to an asteroid or a very small, icy moon.[16] At first it was believed that the object was more likely to be a comet since comets generally have more planet crossing orbits.[17] At the distance of Jupiter (5.2 AU) most small comets are not close enough to the Sun to be very active, and so would be hard to detect.[17] Small kilometer-sized asteroids would also be hard to detect, however, and recent work by Orton et al. and Hammel et al. has strongly suggested the impactor was an asteroid, as it left only one impact site, did not reduce Jovian decametric radiation emission by contributing significant dust to the Jovian magnetosphere, and produced high altitude dusty debris full of silica, very different than what was produced by SL9.

As of 2012, the impactor is believed to have been an asteroid with a diameter of about 200 to 500 meters.[4]


Assuming it was an inactive comet (or asteroid) about 1 km in diameter, this object would have been no brighter than about apparent magnitude 25.[17] (Jupiter shines about 130 billion times brighter than a 25th magnitude object.)[18] Most asteroid surveys which use a wide field of view do not see fainter than about magnitude 22 (which is 16x brighter than magnitude 25).[17] Even detecting satellites less than 10 km in diameter orbiting Jupiter is difficult and requires some of the best telescopes in the world.[19] It is only since 1999 with the discovery of Callirrhoe that astronomers have been able to discover many of Jupiter's smallest moons.[20]

2010 Jupiter impact event

On June 3, 2010, Anthony Wesley discovered another impact event, smaller than the previous observed impacts.[21] The 2010 impact was then discovered to have also been captured on video by amateur astronomer Christopher Go in the Philippines.[21]

See also


  1. ^ Dennis Overbye (2009-07-24). "Hubble Takes Snapshot of Jupiter's 'Black Eye'". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-07-25.
  2. ^ a b c "Hubble Captures Rare Jupiter Collision". Hubblesite (STScI-2009-23). 2009-07-24. Retrieved 2009-07-24.
  3. ^ a b c Jupiter pummeled, leaving bruise the size of the Pacific Ocean. University of California, Berkeley press release, July 21, 2009.
  4. ^ a b Jia-Rui C. Cook (January 26, 2011). "Asteroids Ahoy! Jupiter Scar Likely from Rocky Body". News and Features @ NASA/JPL. Archived from the original on 27 January 2011. Retrieved 2011-01-26.
  5. ^ Mackey, Robert (July 21, 2009). "Amateur Finds New Earth-Sized Blot on Jupiter". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-07-21.
  6. ^ Wesley, Anthony. "Impact mark on Jupiter, 19th July 2009". (jupiter.samba.org). Archived from the original on 2009-07-23. Retrieved 2009-07-21.
  7. ^ O'Loughlin, Toni and agencies (2009-07-21). "Amateur astronomer spots Earth-size scar on Jupiter". London: The Guardian. Archived from the original on 29 July 2009. Retrieved 2009-07-21.
  8. ^ a b Jupiter adds a feature Archived 2011-07-20 at the Wayback Machine. Keck Observatory observations, July 21, 2009
  9. ^ Martinez, Carolina (July 20, 2009). "New NASA Images Indicate Object Hits Jupiter". Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Archived from the original on 27 July 2009. Retrieved 2009-07-21.
  10. ^ Longo, Giuseppe (2007). "18: The Tunguska event" (PDF). In Bobrowsky, Peter T.; Rickman, Hans. Comet/Asteroid Impacts and Human Society, An Interdisciplinary Approach. Berlin Heidelberg New York: Springer-Verlag. pp. 303–330. ISBN 978-3-540-32709-7.. Accessed 2009-07-27. Archived 2009-07-29.
  11. ^ Zahnle, Kevin; Schenk, Paul; Levison, Harold; Dones, Luke (2003). "Cratering rates in the outer Solar System" (PDF). Icarus. 163 (163): 263–289. Bibcode:2003Icar..163..263Z. CiteSeerX doi:10.1016/S0019-1035(03)00048-4. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2009-07-29. Retrieved 2009-07-27. 1.5-km-diameter comets is currently N(d > 1.5 km) = 0.005+0.006
     per annum
  12. ^ Tabe, Isshi; Watanabe, Jun-ichi; Jimbo, Michiwo (February 1997). "Discovery of a Possible Impact SPOT on Jupiter Recorded in 1690". Publications of the Astronomical Society of Japan. 49: L1–L5. Bibcode:1997PASJ...49L...1T. doi:10.1093/pasj/49.1.l1. Jupiter has been continuously monitored for almost 400 yr
  13. ^ D. A. Crawford. "Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 Fragment Size" (PDF). Lunar and Planetary Institute. Retrieved 2009-07-22.
  14. ^ "Surprise Collision on Jupiter Captured by Gemini Telescope". Gemini Observatory. Retrieved 2009-07-24.
  15. ^ Perlman, David. "Glowing scar is revealing Jupiter's secrets" San Francisco Chronicle, 23 July 2009.
  16. ^ Grossman, Lisa (2009-07-21). "Jupiter sports new 'bruise' from impact". New Scientist. Archived from the original on 3 August 2009. Retrieved 2009-07-22.
  17. ^ a b c d Carl Hergenrother (2009-07-21). "More on the Jupiter Impact". Retrieved 2009-07-24.
  18. ^ billion (1.3×1011)
  19. ^ Scott S. Sheppard. "New Satellites of Jupiter Discovered in 2003". Carnegie Institution (Department of Terrestrial Magnetism). Archived from the original on 8 June 2009. Retrieved 2009-07-23.
  20. ^ "New moon of Jupiter found". SpaceFlight Now (University of Arizona News Release). Retrieved 2009-07-23.
  21. ^ a b Bakich, Michael (2010-06-04). "Another impact on Jupiter". Astronomy Magazine online. Retrieved 2010-06-04.

Further reading

  • Hammel, H. B.; Wong, M. H.; Clarke, J. T.; De Pater, I.; Fletcher, L. N.; Hueso, R.; Noll, K.; Orton, G. S.; Pérez-Hoyos, S.; Sánchez-Lavega, A.; Simon-Miller, A. A.; Yanamandra-Fisher, P. A. (2010). "Jupiter After the 2009 Impact:hubble Space Telescopeimaging of the Impact-Generated Debris and Its Temporal Evolution". The Astrophysical Journal. 715 (2): L150. Bibcode:2010ApJ...715L.150H. doi:10.1088/2041-8205/715/2/L150..
  • Sánchez-Lavega, A.; Wesley, A.; Orton, G.; Hueso, R.; Perez-Hoyos, S.; Fletcher, L. N.; Yanamandra-Fisher, P.; Legarreta, J.; De Pater, I.; Hammel, H.; Simon-Miller, A.; Gomez-Forrellad, J. M.; Ortiz, J. L.; García-Melendo, E.; Puetter, R. C.; Chodas, P. (2010). "The Impact of a Large Object on Jupiter in 2009 July". The Astrophysical Journal. 715 (2): L155. arXiv:1005.2312. Bibcode:2010ApJ...715L.155S. doi:10.1088/2041-8205/715/2/L155..

External links

2010 Jupiter impact event

The 2010 Jupiter impact event was a bolide impact event on Jupiter by an object estimated to be about 8–13 meters in diameter. The impactor may have been an asteroid, comet, centaur, extinct comet, or temporary satellite capture.

Atmosphere of Jupiter

The atmosphere of Jupiter is the largest planetary atmosphere in the Solar System. It is mostly made of molecular hydrogen and helium in roughly solar proportions; other chemical compounds are present only in small amounts and include methane, ammonia, hydrogen sulfide and water. Although water is thought to reside deep in the atmosphere, its directly measured concentration is very low. The nitrogen, sulfur, and noble gas abundances in Jupiter's atmosphere exceed solar values by a factor of about three.The atmosphere of Jupiter lacks a clear lower boundary and gradually transitions into the liquid interior of the planet. From lowest to highest, the atmospheric layers are the troposphere, stratosphere, thermosphere and exosphere. Each layer has characteristic temperature gradients. The lowest layer, the troposphere, has a complicated system of clouds and hazes, comprising layers of ammonia, ammonium hydrosulfide and water. The upper ammonia clouds visible at Jupiter's surface are organized in a dozen zonal bands parallel to the equator and are bounded by powerful zonal atmospheric flows (winds) known as jets. The bands alternate in color: the dark bands are called belts, while light ones are called zones. Zones, which are colder than belts, correspond to upwellings, while belts mark descending gas. The zones' lighter color is believed to result from ammonia ice; what gives the belts their darker colors is uncertain. The origins of the banded structure and jets are not well understood, though a "shallow model" and a "deep model" exist.The Jovian atmosphere shows a wide range of active phenomena, including band instabilities, vortices (cyclones and anticyclones), storms and lightning. The vortices reveal themselves as large red, white or brown spots (ovals). The largest two spots are the Great Red Spot (GRS) and Oval BA, which is also red. These two and most of the other large spots are anticyclonic. Smaller anticyclones tend to be white. Vortices are thought to be relatively shallow structures with depths not exceeding several hundred kilometers. Located in the southern hemisphere, the GRS is the largest known vortex in the Solar System. It could engulf two or three Earths and has existed for at least three hundred years. Oval BA, south of GRS, is a red spot a third the size of GRS that formed in 2000 from the merging of three white ovals.Jupiter has powerful storms, often accompanied by lightning strikes. The storms are a result of moist convection in the atmosphere connected to the evaporation and condensation of water. They are sites of strong upward motion of the air, which leads to the formation of bright and dense clouds. The storms form mainly in belt regions. The lightning strikes on Jupiter are hundreds of times more powerful than those seen on Earth, and are assumed to be associated with the water clouds. This storm near the red spot is called Red Spot Junior.

Formation and evolution of the Solar System

The formation and evolution of the Solar System began 4.6 billion years ago with the gravitational collapse of a small part of a giant molecular cloud. Most of the collapsing mass collected in the center, forming the Sun, while the rest flattened into a protoplanetary disk out of which the planets, moons, asteroids, and other small Solar System bodies formed.

This model, known as the nebular hypothesis was first developed in the 18th century by Emanuel Swedenborg, Immanuel Kant, and Pierre-Simon Laplace. Its subsequent development has interwoven a variety of scientific disciplines including astronomy, physics, geology, and planetary science. Since the dawn of the space age in the 1950s and the discovery of extrasolar planets in the 1990s, the model has been both challenged and refined to account for new observations.

The Solar System has evolved considerably since its initial formation. Many moons have formed from circling discs of gas and dust around their parent planets, while other moons are thought to have formed independently and later been captured by their planets. Still others, such as Earth's Moon, may be the result of giant collisions. Collisions between bodies have occurred continually up to the present day and have been central to the evolution of the Solar System. The positions of the planets might have shifted due to gravitational interactions. This planetary migration is now thought to have been responsible for much of the Solar System's early evolution.

In roughly 5 billion years, the Sun will cool and expand outward to many times its current diameter (becoming a red giant), before casting off its outer layers as a planetary nebula and leaving behind a stellar remnant known as a white dwarf. In the far distant future, the gravity of passing stars will gradually reduce the Sun's retinue of planets. Some planets will be destroyed, others ejected into interstellar space. Ultimately, over the course of tens of billions of years, it is likely that the Sun will be left with none of the original bodies in orbit around it.

Impact event

An impact event is a collision between astronomical objects causing measurable effects. Impact events have physical consequences and have been found to regularly occur in planetary systems, though the most frequent involve asteroids, comets or meteoroids and have minimal effect. When large objects impact terrestrial planets such as the Earth, there can be significant physical and biospheric consequences, though atmospheres mitigate many surface impacts through atmospheric entry. Impact craters and structures are dominant landforms on many of the Solar System's solid objects and present the strongest empirical evidence for their frequency and scale.

Impact events appear to have played a significant role in the evolution of the Solar System since its formation. Major impact events have significantly shaped Earth's history, have been implicated in the formation of the Earth–Moon system, the evolutionary history of life, the origin of water on Earth and several mass extinctions. The famous prehistoric Chicxulub impact, 66 million years ago, is believed to be the cause of the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event.Throughout recorded history, hundreds of Earth impacts (and exploding bolides) have been reported, with some occurrences causing deaths, injuries, property damage, or other significant localised consequences. One of the best-known recorded events in modern times was the Tunguska event, which occurred in Siberia, Russia, in 1908. The 2013 Chelyabinsk meteor event is the only known such incident in modern times to result in a large number of injuries, excluding the 1490 Ch'ing-yang event in China. The Chelyabinsk meteor is the largest recorded object to have encountered the Earth since the Tunguska event.

The Comet Shoemaker–Levy 9 impact provided the first direct observation of an extraterrestrial collision of Solar System objects, when the comet broke apart and collided with Jupiter in July 1994. An extrasolar impact was observed in 2013, when a massive terrestrial planet impact was detected around the star ID8 in the star cluster NGC 2547 by NASA's Spitzer space telescope and confirmed by ground observations. Impact events have been a plot and background element in science fiction.

In April 2018, the B612 Foundation reported "It’s 100 per cent certain we’ll be hit [by a devastating asteroid], but we’re not 100 per cent certain when." Also in 2018, physicist Stephen Hawking, in his final book Brief Answers to the Big Questions, considered an asteroid collision to be the biggest threat to the planet. In June 2018, the US National Science and Technology Council warned that America is unprepared for an asteroid impact event, and has developed and released the "National Near-Earth Object Preparedness Strategy Action Plan" to better prepare. According to expert testimony in the United States Congress in 2013, NASA would require at least five years of preparation before a mission to intercept an asteroid could be launched.

List of Jupiter events

In recorded history, the planet Jupiter has experienced impact events and has been probed and photographed by several spacecraft.

On Earth
On Jupiter
See also
Exploration and
orbiting missions

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