[PeterPaul.ca] — An object said to be the size of the Earth has bombarded the planet Jupiter, exactly 15 years after the Shoemaker-Levy 9 comet impacted the solar systems largest planet, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory confirmed Monday.
The object, discovered by amateur astronomer Anthony Wesley of Murrumbateman, Australia, hit the south polar region of Jupiter on Friday, leaving a large “dark spot” on the surface of Jupiter. Soon after the discovery, Wesley notified NASA who in turn notified their Infrared Telescope Facility [ITF] in Mauna Kea, Hawaii. The ITF eventually confirmed the impact.
“It took another 15 minutes to really believe that I was seeing something new – I’d imaged that exact region only 2 days earlier and checking back to that image showed no sign of any anomalous black spot,” Wesley’s blog said Tuesday.
“Now I was caught between a rock and a hard place – I wanted to keep imaging but also I was aware of the importance of alerting others to this possible new event,” he added.
In 1994, fragments of the Shoemaker-Levy 9 comet, named after Carolyn and Eugene Shoemaker and David Levy, struck Jupiter’s southern hemisphere between July 16 and July 22. The comet made impact with Jupiter more than a year after it was discovered on March 23, 1993.
The largest impact occurred on July 18 with the force of 6,000,000 tonnes, or 600 times the world’s nuclear weapons. At the time, the Shoemaker-Levy 9 comet was the only comet that orbited Jupiter and not the Sun.
“More images will come along from me and many other people in the next few days,” Wesley said.