The bright “fireball” on Jupiter captured on camera the morning of June 3 by amateur astronomers Anthony Wesley and Christopher Go (a still image from Anthony’s video is above, rotated and cropped) is now believed to have been a meteor burning up high in the planet’s atmosphere, and not an impact like the July 2009 event (also caught on camera by Wesley.) The lack of any debris cloud or dark smudges in Jupiter’s cloud tops indicates that whatever
caused the flash did not make it all the way into the clouds to explode and send up a dark plume…but was still big enough to make a flash visible from 400 million miles away. This made astronomers suspect a meteor. And by turning the Hubble Space Telescope to investigate closer, their suspicion was confirmed…no debris to be found, not even with Hubble’s sharp focus and ultraviolet-sensitive eyes.
“We suspected for this 2010 impact there might be no big explosion driving a giant plume, and hence no resulting debris field to be imaged. There was just the meteor, and Hubble confirmed this.”
– Heidi Hammel, Space Science Institute
Still, spotting a shooting star on another planet is no small feat! Congrats to Wesley and Go for their skill and dedication…and a bit of luck never hurts either. 😉
Image: Anthony Wesley, Broken Hill, Australia