What Caused the Recent Explosion at Jupiter?

A bright flash was spotted on Jupiter early on the morning of September 10, 2012, and astronomers were hoping to later see an impact “scar” which would provide more information about the object that slammed into the giant gas planet. Was it a comet, asteroid or a smaller meteor? But alas, no impact scar or debris field showed up on Jupiter’s face and the nature of this explosion may remain a mystery.

“By performing spectroscopic measurement of the debris field we hope to be capable of determining the nature of the impactor,” SETI astronomer Franck Marchis told Universe Today via email. “Without debris field it is virtually impossible since the bolide burned in the upper atmosphere. One day we may be capable of recorded a spectrum of the meteor itself (during the impact) but right now we don’t have such capabilities.”

The flash was first spotted by Dan Peterson, an amateur astronomer from Racine, Wisconsin who saw the flash as he was looking through a telescope, but he wasn’t recording his observations. He posted about his sighting on the Association of Lunar & Planetary Observers message board (ALPO), reporting the explosion, which occurred inside the southern edge of Jupiter’s northern equatorial belt of clouds.

 

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