A jovian black eye

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When I read that an impact had been spotted on Jupiter, I figured it was somewhere other than the equator, which would be a bulls-eye. Even Shoemaker-Levy, a huge comet broken into a string of pieces, slammed like a series of machine gun bullets into Jupiter near its south pole.

But this one was bigger. See above. And read the story. That black hole in the side of Jupiter is nearly as big as our whole planet. [Woops, not quite. DFR points out in a comment below that the black spot is certainly a moon shadow. Jupiter has four big ones, they do make shadows like that, they are all on the planet’s equator, they’re all a good deal smaller than the Earth (being moons), and I should have known better. Anyway…

And nobody saw it coming.

One good thing is that Jupiter is kind of a crap sweeper, gliding around the inside edge of the outer solar system with a nice big gravitational field, sucking up debris that might otherwise clobber one of your inner planets, such as ours.

By the way, that bright point of light in the eastern sky these evenings is Jupiter. The smaller points of light on either side of it and close by are its moons. The clear-eyed can make them out on a dark night. And they’re quite obvious through good telescopes.

Oh, by the way, there’s a total solar eclipse happening right now in Asia. The NASA server with cool info seems to be hosed. So do some other sites I’ve checked (not that my connection is good right now… we’re back to high latencies again). But Shadow & Substance is on the scene and covering it live. Lots of fun stuff there.

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9 comments

  1. Warren’s avatar

    wow. I’d heard nothing about this. It’s a little disturbing (but not surprising) that no one knew it was coming.

  2. Andrew Leyden’s avatar

    Some great coverage on the P2P TV nets like TVU and Livestation of tv from China showing the eclipse. CCTV 4 has had footage from all over the country. Quite impressive.

  3. DFR’s avatar

    The dark spot in the middle is almost certainly a moon shadow. The impact site is the dark spot near the top of the planet (which is, I believe, south).

  4. Doc Searls’s avatar

    DFR, I’m sure you’re right. That did look like a moon shadow to me at first, but I just assumed wrong. Duh. This image tells the story much better. It’s as far off-equator as Shoemaker-Levy was.

  5. dave taht’s avatar

    Nice linux connection, too. The original report and photos came from an avid Linux user, using Coriander to control the camera, and the gimp to process the images.

    And when he got slashdotted, Tridge helped by mirroring his server with a server based out of the samba farm.

    While the current meme of “Jupiter is a garbage sweeper” is going around, and somewhat accurate… Jupiter is also responsible for perturbing orbits into dangerous zones, as well. Many potentially hazardous asteroids (PHAs) are in some sort of resonance with Jupiter.

    See, for example, http://www.orbitsimulator.com/gravity/articles/toutatis.html which shows the 3:1 resonance with jupiter pulling and pushing toutatis into crossing Earth’s orbit, repeatedly.

  6. dave taht’s avatar

    (incidentally) I am fully aware that “pulling and pushing” is not what is going on, but I’m vague on a good means of expressing the gravitational effects of rotating reference frames succinctly in English.

  7. Ben’s avatar

    Always nice having a big brother around to take care of the occasional cosmic bully :)

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