Hubble captures new dark "scar" on Jupiter

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Washington, July 25 (ANI): The Hubble Space Telescope has captured the image of a new expanding dark "scar" on the giant planet Jupiter, which was caused by the impact of a comet or an asteroid.

The spot is changing from day to day in the planet's cloud tops.

The Hubble picture, taken on July 23, is the sharpest visible-light picture taken of the feature and is Hubble's first science observation following its repair and upgrade in May. Observations were taken with Hubble's new camera, the Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3).

Discovered by Australian amateur astronomer Anthony Wesley on Sunday, July 19, the spot was created when a small object plunged into Jupiter's atmosphere and disintegrated.

The only other time in history such a feature has been seen on Jupiter was 15 years ago.

"This is strikingly similar to the comet Shoemaker Levy 9 that impacted Jupiter in July 1994," said team member Keith Noll of the Space Telescope Science Institute.

"Since we believe this magnitude of impact is rare, we are very fortunate to see it with Hubble," added Amy Simon-Miller of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

She explained that the details seen in the Hubble view show a lumpiness to the debris plume caused by turbulence in Jupiter's atmosphere.

The spot is presently about twice the length of the whole of Europe.

Simon-Miller estimated that the diameter of the object that slammed into Jupiter was at least twice the size of several football fields.

"This is just one example of what Hubble's new, state-of-the-art camera can do, thanks to the hard work of the astronauts and the entire Hubble team," said Ed Weiler, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate. "Fortunately, the best is yet to come!" he added.

"Hubble's truly exquisite imaging capability has revealed an astonishing wealth of detail in the 2009 impact site," said Heidi Hammel of the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado.

"By combining these images with our ground-based data at other wavelengths, our Hubble data will allow a comprehensive understanding of exactly what is happening to the impact debris," she added. (ANI)

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