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Asteroid impact caused huge scar on Jupiter

January 28, 2011 Comments off

A massive scar that appeared in Jupiter’s atmosphere last summer was caused by an asteroid ‘the size of the Titanic’, says NASA.

By examining the signatures of the gases and dark debris produced by the impact shockwaves, the team deduced that the object was more likely a rocky asteroid than an icy comet.

“Both the fact that the impact itself happened at all and the implication that it may well have been an asteroid rather than a comet shows us that the outer solar system is a complex, violent and dynamic place, and that many surprises may be out there waiting for us,” said NASA astronomer Glenn Orton. “There is still a lot to sort out in the outer solar system.”

Before this collision, scientists had thought that the only objects that hit Jupiter were icy comets whose unstable orbits took them close enough to be sucked in by gravitational attraction. It was believed that Jupiter had already cleared most other objects, such as asteroids, from its sphere of influence.

The July 19, 2009 object likely hit Jupiter between 9 am and 11 am UTC.

As it fell through Jupiter’s atmosphere, the object created a Read more…