Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Mystery Object Impacts Jupiter

CNN) -- Jupiter is sporting a new scar after a mystery object hit the gaseous planet this week, NASA scientists say.

This NASA image shows a large impact near Jupiter's southern pole.
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An amateur astronomer in Australia noticed the new mark on the planet Sunday and tipped off scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, who then confirmed it was the result of a new impact, NASA said.

It's not clear what the object was that crashed into Jupiter's poisonous atmosphere.

Glenn Orton, a JPL scientist, told the magazine New Scientist that it could have been a block of ice from somewhere in Jupiter's neighborhood, or a wandering comet that was too faint for astronomers to have detected before impact.

"We were extremely lucky to be seeing Jupiter at exactly the right time, the right hour, the right side of Jupiter to witness the event. We couldn't have planned it better," Orton said in a NASA interview.

Scientists also don't know how large the object was, but the impact scar it created is about the same size as Earth, JPL astronomer Leigh Fletcher told the magazine.



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