Jupiter Gets Smacked Yet Again?

by Nancy Atkinson on August 22, 2010

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It looks like once again, Jupiter has taken a hit! And once again an amateur astronomer spotted and captured the event. Masayuki Tachikawa was observing Jupiter on at 18:22 Universal Time on August 20th (early on August 21 in Japan) and his video camera captured a 1-second-long flash on the planet’s disk, along the northern edge of the gas giant’s North Equatorial Belt. The event was reported by astronomer Junichi Watanabe from the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, on his blog.

Tachikawa lives in Kumamato on the island of Kyushu and was observing with a Philips ToUcam Pro II attached to his 6-inch (150-mm) Takahashi TAO-150 f/7.3 refractor with a Tele Vue 5× Powermate.
So, far no one else has reported seeing the event, and the amateur astronomers who captured earlier Jupiter impacts — Anthony Wesley and Chris Go — were not watching Jupiter at the time.

Coincidentally, Tammy just posted some tips for observing Jupiter, and with the low cost imagers that are now available, anyone can make discoveries — so go out there are take a look!

Find out more about the impact at the Gish Bar Times, Planetary Blog, Sky and Telescope and Sky Week (in German)

About 

Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also is the host of the NASA Lunar Science Institute podcast and works with Astronomy Cast. Nancy is also a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

Aqua August 22, 2010 at 4:12 PM

LOL! I JUST saw that news flash (Posted within the hour?) at SpaceWeather.com, then came back into this room moments later and saw this post. Nancy… you are so ON IT! Grins, grunts and chuckles… Talk about your minute by minute coverage! Tammy too… yous guys are psy-chics!

Jon Hanford August 22, 2010 at 6:41 PM

After the earlier June event witnessed simultaneously by two amateurs thousands of mile apart, I thought it would be some time before this feat would be repeated. I thought wrong!

Maybe this could become some sporting venture, like hunting comets. The Sky & Telescope report included this:

“To Jupiter specialist Glenn Orton (Jet Propulsion Laboratory), the flash looks like another June 3rd event. “Perhaps the time has come,” he adds, “to establish a worldwide network of Jupiter-monitoring telescopes so that the planet can be watched 24/7.” ”

That could easily be accomplished by a group of suitably equipped amateurs over the internet, if such a group doesn’t already exist. And what about at least an exploratory look at Saturn?

IVAN3MAN_AT_LARGE August 22, 2010 at 6:44 PM

@ AQUA,

They are gals, not “guys”. ;-)

Torbjorn Larsson OM August 23, 2010 at 12:27 AM

It’s confirmed, by another japanese btw.

So, ~ 4 impacts a year, likely comets, huh? What would that mean in terms of comet protection and Oort belt population – any discrepancies explained/estimates firmed up?

“look at Saturn” – impacts gives a new meaning to “Saturn rings”.

Torbjorn Larsson OM August 23, 2010 at 12:36 AM

Googles “bright eye comets” historically ~ 2.5 y^-1. So J&S takes ~ 10 y^-1 hits for us, not all bright eyes but perhaps a hefty chunk of the flow? Big brother & sister syndrome, I guess!

David August 23, 2010 at 5:03 AM

Makes one wonder if the amount of impacts are on the rise or it is the result of the increase in the dedicated efforts of amateur astronomers in observing. I, for one, greatly appreciate the efforts of these fellows.

Jon Hanford August 23, 2010 at 5:43 AM

I look forward to the day when orbital missions to Jupiter can examine these events in detail with a multitude of instruments. But why wait? Cassini presents just that option now. Why not a dedicated monitoring campaign (from Earth) for targets of opportunity until the end of the extended Equinox mission? What a coup for astronomy such observations would be. I’m sure motivated amateurs or groups would greatly enjoy the challenge (and bragging rights, if successful) and it wouldn’t cost NASA a dime. Damien Peach, are you listening.? :D

Aqua August 23, 2010 at 8:59 AM

Am wondering if the three ‘recent’ events might be related? That is similar to the Comet Shoemaker Levy 9 event? In this case the suspect object might be a rocky asteroid making a close pass by Jupiter which causes it to break up. Several large remnants are ‘flung’ into alternately extended orbital(s) but are eventually drawn back into Jupiter’s massive gravity well?

Aqua August 23, 2010 at 9:03 AM

@IV3Man@Lg – Of course, I was speaking colloquially… oTay?

IVAN3MAN_AT_LARGE August 23, 2010 at 6:56 PM

@ JON HANFORD,

Er… the last time I had checked, Cassini was orbiting Saturn, not Jupiter (unless you know something that I don’t ;-) ).

Torbjorn Larsson OM August 24, 2010 at 1:43 AM

“J&S takes ~ 10 y^-1 hits for us” Make that ~ 20/y (we see one side, catches happens more or less isotropically).

Jon Hanford August 24, 2010 at 2:55 AM

@IVAN3MAN_AT_LARGE,

Yikes! I see I failed to directly mention Saturn in my post (and it’s ambiguously worded to boot). Try again:

Why not a Saturn monitoring program to look for possible impact events on the visible disk and ring system? TL OM’s impact statistics certainly look encouraging. High altitude haze in the Saturnian atmosphere may attenuate any ‘fireball’ from the impactor or leave any resulting hole in the cloud deck hard to observe, but that remains to be seen. From an Earth-based imaging perspective, among the four gas giants, Jupiter and Saturn would be favored due to their large angular size. And between the two, only Saturn is orbited by an operating spacecraft…Cassini.

Monitoring programs of solar system objects have been undertaken in the past by organizations like ALPO and the BAA, as well as other private and professional groups. Perhaps they could coordinate such a campaign looking for Saturnian impactors. With the Cassini mission to Saturn winding down, only a few years are left for study of an impact event from orbit, should one occur. Hopefully, we will be lucky enough to see such an event before the end of Cassini’s mission.

Aqua August 24, 2010 at 2:01 PM

We definitely need more ‘eyes’ looking at the sky to really see the “INCOMING!” at Saturn, Jupiter or Mars! Far side crater scope anyone? The stats from that would be good. Solve lots of questions to be answered AND some mysteries?

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