The moment Jupiter was HIT by a giant asteroid yesterday – and humanity’s only record was taken by a faithful webcam in the dead of night : A Major Failure of All Earth Based surveillance

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  • Jupiter was hit  during the day yesterday – but it apparently went unobserved from  Earth

  • …except for one  astronomer, Dan Petersen, who saw the flash with his own eyes

  • When Petersen  reported the sighting on a web forum, amateur astronomer George Hall checked his  overnight footage

By Eddie Wrenn

PUBLISHED:07:49 EST, 11  September 2012| UPDATED:09:17 EST, 11 September 2012

This is the moment Jupiter was struck by a  mighty meteorite yesterday – and our only record of it is this image, captured  by a lone webcam chugging away in the early hours of the morning.

As the people of Earth carried out their  lives unawares, it seems our gas giant neighbour took a forceful blow to the  side at about 11.35am GMT yesterday.

Amateur astronomer George Hall, from Dallas,  captured the flash on video at 5:35am CET – but he only went to check his  footage after hearing online that another astronomer, watching the planet with  his own eyes, saw the huge explosion bloom out of Jupiter in the blink of an  eye.

What a moment: Jupiter was struck by an asteroid yesterday, as confirmed by this image and a separate eye-witnessWhat a moment: Jupiter was struck by an asteroid  yesterday, as confirmed by this image and a separate eye-witness

Now astronomers are waiting for the planet to  swing back round – to see if Jupiter has been scarred by the impact.

If it has, a black smudge is likely to appear  on the ‘clouds’ of the planet, a distinctive mark to go alongside the Red Spot –  Jupiter’s giant storm.


Jupiter has been known as the ‘cosmic vacuum  cleaner’ of the solar system.

The planet’s mass and large orbit sweeps up  the scattered meteors  that are relics from the early days of our solar system  formation, with the planet  either ‘taking the bullet’ itself, or deflecting  orbits away from the  inner planets.

Many astronomers believe life would not have  got started on Earth with Jupiter’s influence – and before our solar system settled down, Earth was frequently bombarded with giant  impacts.

Jupiter has taken many a hit from the rocks  that maraude their way through the solar system – remnants from the early days  of the solar system when rocks would co-coalesce to form our planets.

Asteroid impacts were reported in 2009 and  2010 – and in 1994, the string of comets known as Shoemaker-Levy ploughed into  the planet, offering us an eerie glimpse of what happens in during such colossal  impacts.

George Hall,  who blogs  about his images, who went back through  the footage recorded by his telescope overnight to find the impact, said: It’s  kind of a scary proposition to see how often Jupiter gets hit.’

His image was captured by a 12-inch Meade  Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope and a Point Grey Flea3 video camera attached to  capture imagery for a composite picture of Jupiter.

He said: ‘Jupiter happens to be ideally  positioned at about 6 o’clock in the morning – it’s right overhead.’

The flare lasted just two seconds – and  Halls’ equipment happened to capture the shot at exactly the right moment for  the above image.

1994: Marks from the impact of comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 on the clouds of Jupiter, about two hours after impact1994: Marks from the impact of comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 on  the clouds of Jupiter, about two hours after impact
Shoemaker-Levy: The pieces of the comet all hit at roughly the same spot but at different times, and the planet rotated beneath it, the impact sites are spread along like a string of pearlsShoemaker-Levy: The pieces of the comet all hit at  roughly the same spot but at different times, and the planet rotated beneath it,  the impact sites are spread along like a string of pearls

In many ways it is pure chance the flash was  captured.  Astronomer Dan Petersen saw the impact live and reported it on  the Association of Lunar and Planetary Observers’ Jupiter forum.

Hall visited the forum, saw the report, and  decided to check his footage.

He said: ‘I decided to just observe on this  particular morning.

‘Had I been  imaging I probably would have  missed it while playing with webcam  settings and focusing.’

He told NBC:  ‘I never would have looked’ if he hadn’t  heard the buzz on the forums, but luckily he checked his records for the same  time reported by Petersen – 6:35am CT, 7:35 am ET, or 11:35 GMT – and found the  image, appearing in just one frame.

Later today as Jupiter’s spin turns the right  part of the planet’s face back to Earth, astronomers will hunt out any visible  signs of the impact.

However, as Hall told, he will probably be in  bed at the time.

‘I’m almost 70 years old, he said. ‘And it  takes a lot out of me to get up at 4:30 or 5.’

Hopefully, there will be a smear. If not,  there would have been no record of the cosmic impact – other than in the  eyeballs of an amateur astronomer, and a blurry still captured on a  webcam.

Read more:–humanitys-record-taken-faithful-webcam-dead-night.html#ixzz26D8S10tm

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