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Eyes on the skies: What hit Jupiter?




jupiter

Astronomers in the Bay Area and around the world are all agog over an immense scar larger than the Pacific Ocean that has suddenly appeared on the surface of Jupiter.

Some unknown comet or asteroid must have just crashed into the giant planet’s upper atmosphere to cause the scar, the astronomers believe.

For only the second time in the 400 years since Galileo trained his primitive telescope on Jupiter, professionals and amateurs alike are observing how the planet has been blasted by a cosmic collision, and excitement is mounting about the mystery.

The only similar impact occurred 15 years ago, when huge chunks of Comet Shoemaker-Levy rained down on the planet at interplanetary speeds for five days and pitted the gaseous surface with clusters of huge black spots.

That crash has intrigued astronomers ever since, and they have been hard at work analyzing its effects on the planet in scientific paper after paper.

The new scar was first detected Sunday by Anthony Wesley, an amateur astronomer in Australia, who promptly posted a blog for other astronomers.

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