A Space Weather alert last night carried the story of a possible impact on Jupiter spotted by a well-equipped amateur astronomer in Australia, Anthony Wesley – similar to the 1994 Shoemaker-Levy 9 collisions. Following up the story today reveals how modern media has played its part in spreading the news and now Nasa’s Infrared Telescope on Hawaii is on the case. The Professor points to the Irish Astronomy forum discussion, but the initial notice seems to have been on an Australian amateur astronomy website. As Wesley’s friend and fellow amateur, Mike Salway, says.
In the latest update, Glenn Orton of the JPL is imaging the site now with the NASA Infrared Telescope and hes just told Anthony its an impact. So I guess thats official!! News of Anthonys discovery has gone around the globe like wildfire today. It was all over twitter, its been published on the Bad Astronomy Blog, Universe Today, SlashDot (which killed Anthonys webserver!), SpaceWeather and more.
People on Twitter (and on that site linked above) are speculating that this is the result of a large impact on Jupiter, similar to what happened in 1994 when comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 slammed into the big planet. But I think thats premature; weather changes rapidly on Jupiter, and black spots have appeared before see here and here. That doesnt mean this isnt an impact event (or, for that matter, the earlier events werent either) but its jumping the gun to call it an impact event before we get more observations. I will add that this new spot is indeed very dark, which means its pretty interesting no matter what it is!
But, according to Wesley’s observation report
Glenn Orton from JPL has imaged this site using the NASA Infrared Telescope on Hawaii and confirms that it is an impact site and not a localised weather event. [added link]