Science

Hubble captures Jupiter's new spot

The Hubble telescope's new camera has snapped a sharp image of Jupiter showing the scar left by a recent comet or asteroid crash.
A close-up with a scale shows the spot is about as wide as Canada. ((NASA/ESA/H. Hammel/Jupiter Impact Team))

The Hubble telescope's new camera has snapped a sharp image of Jupiter showing the scar left by a recent comet or asteroid crash.

The image released by NASA on Friday reveals an irregular, dark, elongated spot near the giant planet's south pole, about as wide as Canada. It was taken by the Wide Field Camera 3 on July 23 by a group of astronomers led by Heidi Hammel of the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.

The spot is a debris plume associated with turbulence in Jupiter's atmosphere, NASA reported, estimating it was caused by the impact of an object about the size of several football fields.

The image was taken with a new camera that was installed on the Hubble telescope by astronauts in May. ((NASA/ESA/H. Hammel/Jupiter Impact Team))

Hammel said in a statement that the image provides an "astonishing wealth of detail" about the impact site.

The spot was discovered by Australian amateur astronomer Anthony Wesley on July 19.

Astronauts installed the new camera on Hubble in May when they repaired and upgraded the Hubble telescope, which orbits the Earth around 580 million kilometres from Jupiter.

It is not yet completely calibrated and fully operational, but the Hubble team decided to interrupt the calibration process to allow the new Jupiter image to be taken.

Hammel said her research team plans to learn more by combining data from the Hubble's visible light images with data from ground-based measurements of other kinds of radiation.

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