Jupiter explosion sends astronomers scrambling

MICHELLE COOKE
Last updated 10:29 13/09/2012
Jupiter
Spaceweather

A Spaceweather.com chart showing the impact zone on Jupiter of where a bright flash was observed.

Jupiter
GEORGE HALL
The flash on Jupiter was recorded by George Hall

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An amateur astronomer has sent the science world abuzz after he noticed an explosion on the surface of Jupiter.

The bright flash observed on Monday has sent astronomers scrambling to figure out what caused it and whether the planet has been left scarred.

United States amateur astronomer Dan Peterson noticed the explosion on Monday while observing Jupiter through a telescope, New Scientist reported.

Peterson hadn't caught it on camera, so he sent a note detailing his observations, to other astronomers.

Amateur astrophotographer George Hall had been filming Jupiter with a web camera and went back over his footage after receiving Peterson's note.

"Had [Peterson] not recognised the event and issued the alert, I would never gone back and reviewed my videos in enough detail to see the impact," Hall told New Scientist.

Hall had captured the explosion in a four-second video.

Astronomers said it was most likely caused by a comet or asteroid.

While Jupiter is used to taking hits of this kind, they're becoming more noticeable as astronomers, and particularly amateur astronomers, now have the tools to capture the hits in a photo or on film.

"This is a remarkable tool for us professional astronomers," Franck Marchis of the SETI Institute told New Scientist.

"We cannot observe Jupiter continuously. But now when something like this happens, we can see it."

The image caught on Monday was the fourth seen in just over three years.

Two hits were spotted in 2010, while another impact was noticed in 2009, which astronomers now believe was caused by a 500-metre-wide asteroid.

The only observed impact before that was in 1994, according to New Scientist.

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