Flash on Jupiter – most likely a meteor

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As I mentioned in this blog, yesterday two amateur astronomers reported the detection of a flash on Jupiter yesterday on September 10. Since then, various teams have been working around the clock to estimate if this event was a meteor or a large fireball. The results are coming…

Recombined image of Jupiter and the flash made by R. Hueso (University of Basque Country at Bilbao) based on the only known video recorded by George Hall (amateur astronomer located in Dallas, Texas) (Credit: R. Hueso & G. Hall)

Ricardo Hueso, a colleague from University of the Basque Country in Bilbao built a high quality image from the video recorded by George Hall. George from Dallas, Texas is the only amateur astronomer who recorded a video of the event. The final image attached above shows the atmospheric feature of Jupiter (the bands and belts). The flash location has been refined to Long= 345 deg, Lat = +2 deg in system I. The bolide fell into the Equatorial one of Jupiter (see this wikipedia page to learn about the names of the Jupiter bands and belts).

Ricardo Hueso also predicted the best time to observe the impact site from the ground  using the equatorial period of rotation of Jupiter (9h 50min 30 s). If a debris field is visible it will be at the central meridien for the following date and time:

  •  11-September   08:50 UT
  •  11-September   18:41
  •  12-September   04:31
  •  12-September   14:22
  •  13-September   00:12
  •  13-September   10:03
  •  13-September   19:53
  •  14-September   05:44
  •  14-September   15:34
  •  15-September   01:25
  •  15-September   11:15
  •  15-September   21:06
  •  16-September   06:56
  •  16-September   16:47
  •  17-September   02:37
  •  17-September   12:28
  •  17-September   22:18
  •  18-September   08:09
  •  18-September   17:59
  •  19-September   03:50
  •  19-September   13:40
  •  19-September   23:31

If you have access to a telescope, we strongly encourage you to observe Jupiter close to these dates and times using a methane filter at (0.89 micron) or in the near-infrared between 1.6um and 2.5 um. You may be able to detect a debris field on your observations.

Several images were taken before and after the flash by amateurs astronomers around the world. I am attaching below several observations collected by my colleague John Rogers coming from the Philippines (Tomio Akutsu), Georgia, USA (Gary Walker, Mike Hood), Pennsylvania, USA (Wayne Jaeschke) and Japan (Isao Miyazaki). The arrow indicates the located of the flash on the second and third rotations after the fireball event. There is nothing visible at the impact site on these images.

Observations of Jupiter collected before and after the event by amateur astronomers. The arrow indicates the position of the flash. No debris field can be seen (credit: J.H. Rogers, British Astronomical Association)

My colleague Mike Wong stayed awake all night to estimate the amount of energy  delivered by this fireball. He posted the result of the analysis on his blog shortly before finally going to bed (the life of a scientist…). Despite the large uncertainty on the generated light curve he predicted “that this event is too small to create a visible impact scar“. The total amount of energy that was derived for this impact is very close to the June 2010 event one which was analyzed and discussed by R. Hueso and his colleagues in arXiv:1009.1824.

At the present, since no debris field has been detected and the total energy seems to be low, we can conclude that the flash was most likely a meteor due to a small (diameter <10m assuming a density of 2 g/cc) meteoroid. Even if the event may be 500 times less energetic than recent estimates of the Tunguska event, it is remarkable that an amateur astronomer equipped with a 12″ telescope and a webcam could record it at 730 million of km.

Several collisions of this size may happen on Jupiter on a yearly basis. Their observation gives us an opportunity to better estimate the meteorite flux on Jupiter which in return will provide a better age dating estimate for the surface of terrestrial planets and moons of giant planets. It may also help to better quantify the threat of impacting bodies to Earth.

Since these events last only a few seconds, a program like this one is doable only if we film almost continuously Jupiter (and Saturn) when they are visible in the sky. A well coordinated effort involving robotic small telescopes and amateur astronomers is needed, with a robust source of funding as well.

Clear skies,

Franck Marchis

About Franck Marchis

Dr. Franck Marchis is a Researcher at the Carl Sagan Center of the SETI Institute since July 2007. Over the past 15 years, he has dedicated his research to the study of our solar system using mainly ground-based telescopes equipped with adaptive optics. More recently he has been also involved in the definition of new generation of AOs for 8 -10 m class telescopes and future Extremely Large Telescopes. He has developed algorithms to process and enhance the quality of images, both astronomical and biological, using fluorescence microscopy. His currently involved in the development of the Gemini Planet Imager, an extreme AO system for the Gemini South telescope which will be capable of imaging and record spectra of exoplanets orbiting around nearby stars.

9 Responses to Flash on Jupiter – most likely a meteor

  1. [...] hier (glaubt den Mythos). NACHTRAG 3: Nach einem Tag schon die erste Wissenschaft: Der Impaktor war keine 10 Meter groß und verursachte lediglich einen Boliden, vergleichbar mit dem Fall vom Juni 2010. Gefällt [...]

  2. Paolo says:

    I suspect that we are seeing some sort of observational bias, since all of the observed events have been in summer and close to Jupiter opposition. If this is the case, the impact frequency must be higher than it seems

    • Based on the current observations, it is estimated that 50 meteors like this or more energetic could be seen on Jupiter per year.

      • George Hall says:

        Hi Franck,

        It occurs to me that this event saturated several frames of my video. It seems obvious that significantly smaller impacts could be detected with the equipment that I utilized. Is there any coordinated program for amateurs to utilize some semi-automated software to detect much smaller impacts in their videos? Even software with a fairly high false alarm rate would be useful if there were a clearing house to help compare reported detections to eliminate false alarms.

        George Hall

        • Kunio Sayanagi is leading an effort to build an automatize network to monitor Jupiter almost continuously. Part of this project includes the development of an automatic software to detect those flashes. We should definitely combine our effort to build this software ASAP. We will talk about this at the DPS meeting in 1 month. I will keep you posted.

  3. [...] “Impaktnarbe” in der Gashülle. Denn die ersten Aufnahmen nach dem Einschlag zeigen keinerlei Anzeichen für irgendwelche Hinterlassenschaften. Gefällt mir:Gefällt mirSei der Erste dem dies [...]

  4. Hello there! Your article rocks also as becoming a reputable great recognize!??

  5. [...] te preocupes; esta no será la última vez que algo como esto ocurra. Marchis dijo en un comentario en su blog que con base en las observaciones actuales, se estima que 50 meteoros como este –o aún más [...]

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