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Hubble's View of Jupiter's Southern Scar
Hubble's View of Jupiter's Southern Scar

The Hubble Space Telescope trained its newly-installed Wide Field Camera 3 on Jupiter, capturing a photo of the recent impact scar made on July 19.

This image is the first taken by the new camera installed in May, and while it’s still uncalibrated, details can be seen of the dark debris plume that has spread across thousands of miles of Jupiter’s atmosphere.

It’s not known yet exactly what hit the giant planet but scientists believe it may have been a comet or wayward asteroid. The impact occurred on the side of Jupiter facing away from Earth, and when the planet eventually rotated around the impact mark was spotted by amateur astronomer Anthony Wesley from his telescope in Australia.

The scar has been slowly expanding since, Jupiter’s turbulent atmosphere distorting and spreading the dark material across its churning cloudtops.

“Details seen in the Hubble view shows a lumpiness to the debris plume caused by turbulence in Jupiter’s atmosphere.” – Amy Simon-Miller, Goddard Space Flight Center

It’s estimated that the impact was “thousands of times more powerful than the suspected comet or asteroid that exploded over the Tunguska River Valley in June 1908”. (NASA article here.) The object may have been several hundred yards across.

Image: NASA, ESA, and H. Hammel (Space Science Institute, Boulder, Colo.), and the Jupiter Impact Team.