Hubble views new dark spot on Jupiter

This Hubble picture, taken on 23 July, is the sharpest visible-light picture taken of the atmospheric debris from a comet or asteroid that collided with Jupiter on 19 July. This is Hubble's first science observation following its repair and upgrade in May. The image was taken with the new Wide Field Camera 3.

The combination of the Hubble data with mid-infrared images from ground-based telescopes will give astronomers an insight into changes of the vertical structure of Jupiter's atmosphere due to the impact. The expanding spot is about twice the length of the whole of Europe.

First discovered by Australian amateur astronomer Anthony Wesley, the feature is the impact site and "backsplash" of material from a small object that plunged into Jupiter's atmosphere and disintegrated.

The only other time in history such a feature has been seen on Jupiter was in 1994 during the collision of fragments from comet Shoemaker-Levy 9. The spot looks strikingly similar to comet Shoemaker-Levy 9's impact features. The details seen in the Hubble view shows lumpiness in the debris plume caused by turbulence in Jupiter's atmosphere.

The impactor is estimated to be the size of several football fields. The force of the explosion on Jupiter was thousands of times more powerful than the suspected comet or asteroid that exploded in June 1908 over the Tunguska River Valley in Siberia.

This is a natural colour image of Jupiter as seen in visible light.


NASA, ESA and H. Hammel (Space Science Institute, Boulder, Colorado) and the Jupiter Comet Impact Team

About the Image

NASA press release
Release date:24 July 2009, 21:00
Related releases:heic0909
Size:3000 x 2064 px

About the Object

Type:Solar System : Planet : Type : Gas Giant
Category:Solar System

Image Formats

Large JPEG
681.7 KB
Screensize JPEG
132.3 KB

Print Layout

Screensize JPEG
110.7 KB

Colours & filters

437 nm Hubble Space Telescope
508 nm Hubble Space Telescope
634 nm Hubble Space Telescope

Notes: Large image of Jupiter is a grayscale image observed using the mentioned filters.

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