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Astronomer Dan Peterson of Racine in Wisconsin observed an apparent impact on Jupiter early Monday that created a large, bright fireball on the planet. He was observing the largest planet in our Solar System with his 12-inch telescope when the event occurred. Dan Petersen reported the sighting on the ALPO_Jupiter forum.

Jupiter Impact 10 Sept. 2012 11:35 UT. Image Credit: George Hall

Amateur astronomer George Hall of Dallas visited the forum, saw the report, and decided to check his footage, because he suspected he might have captured a video of the event. “When I saw the post, I went back and examined the videos that I had collected this morning,” Hall wrote on his astrophotography website. And indeed, he had a video of the 7:35 a.m. EDT impact.

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

It is unclear whether the impacting object was an asteroid or a comet. “My best guess is that it was a small undetected comet that is now history, hopefully it will sign its name on Jupiter’s cloud tops,” Peterson wrote in the forum.

Shoemaker-Levy 9 Comet Impact of 1994. Image Credit: NASA

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.

Asteroid impacts on Jupiter were reported in 2009 and 2010 – and in 1994, the Shoemaker-Levy 9 comet that broke into pieces and slammed into the gas giant in 1994, offering us an eerie glimpse of what happens during such colossal impacts.

George Hall said: It’s kind of a scary proposition to see how often Jupiter gets hit.’

Sources: The United Press International, Inc and the Daily Mail

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