Jupiter Struck by Object, NASA Images Confirm

"Jupiter Struck by Object, NASA Images Confirm

PASADENA, California — A large comet or asteroid has slammed into Jupiter, creating an impact site the size of Earth, pictures by an Australian amateur astronomer show.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory confirmed the discovery using its large infrared telescope at the summit of Mauna Kea in Hawaii, said computer programer Anthony Wesley, 44, who discovered the impact zone while stargazing at home."…

Full article here: foxnews.com/story/0,2933,534160,00.html

The collision has excited many astronomers:

One sign of the significance of an impact event is the speed with which astronomers drop what they are doing and train billions of dollars worth of hardware on the event.

Why all the hubbub? Astronomers cite several reasons, not the least of which is the possibility that these spectacular collisions between asteroids or comets and the solar system’s giant planets may be more frequent than previously believed. They could occur on the order of once every few decades, rather than on century time-scales.

These events give astronomers a close look at the processes that formed the planets in the first place, says Berkeley’s Dr. Wong. Small “planetesimals” collided with others, building ever-larger objects. Planet-building is still under way, although at a more glacial pace than earlier in the solar system’s history.

Impacts also have much to teach about the planets they hit. In Jupiter’s case, the object exploded in Jupiter’s stratosphere, Dr. Noll says. By watching the pulverized object’s remains spread, scientist can improve their understanding of the planet’s atmospheric circulation…

csmonitor.com/2009/0725/p02s19-stss.html

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