Monday, July 27, 2009

Hubble Captures Rare Jupiter Collision

This reminds me of the late, great scientist Carl Sagan. When a project to develop defenses against a large asteroid or comet hitting the earth, he was originally opposed, considering it a waste of money, because of the small probability this would happen at any one time. I disagreed with him. We can depend that it will happen eventually. It might not be for 100,000, but it might be next year. We can't wait until we see one approaching to develop the technology. After comet Shoemaker Levy 9 hit Jupiter, and caused a very large crater and atmospheric disturbance, he switched to supporting such research. That is the mark of a scientific thinker, the ability to change one's opinion when there is sufficient evidence.

ScienceDaily (July 25, 2009) — The checkout and calibration of the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has been interrupted to aim the recently refurbished observatory at a new expanding spot on the giant planet Jupiter. The spot, caused by the impact of a comet or an asteroid, is changing from day to day in the planet’s cloud tops.
Discovered by Australian amateur astronomer Anthony Wesley on Sunday, July 19, the spot was created when a small object plunged into Jupiter's atmosphere and disintegrated. The only other time in history such a feature has been seen on Jupiter was 15 years ago.

"This is strikingly similar to the comet Shoemaker Levy 9 that impacted Jupiter in July 1994", said team member Keith Noll of the Space Telescope Science Institute.
Simon-Miller estimated that the diameter of the object that slammed into Jupiter was at least twice 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 over the Tunguska River Valley in Siberia in June 1908.

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