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Another Jupiter fireball!
Posted: 23 August 2010

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A third Jupiter impact event in thirteen months has been captured by yet another diligent amateur observer.

Masayuki Tachikawa from Kyushu recorded this flash on Jupiter using a six-inch f/7.3 refractor and a webcam. Image: Masayuki Tachikawa.

Japanese amateur astronomer Masayuki Tachikawa caught the possible fireball event in a video at 18:22 UT on 20 August as a brief, two second, brightening near the north edge of Jupiter's Northern Equatorial Belt. The flash, likely a small asteroid or comet burning up in Jupiter's atmosphere, was later confirmed by another Japanese astronomer Aoki Kazu. Astronomers watching Jupiter for two rotations after the event found no trace of the impact.

The flash bears a striking resemblance to that observed by Anthony Wesley and Christopher Go on 3 June this year, and follows the report of a larger impact event, also observed by Wesley in July 2009, that left a dark impact scar in Jupiter's atmosphere exactly fifteen years after the famous collision of comet Shoemaker Levy-9 with the gas giant.

The observations not only demonstrate the importance of amateur observations for monitoring our Solar System environment, but also the relative frequency of impact events still occurring in our planetary neighbourhood today.

Related stories:

4 June 2010 Jupiter in the firing line, again!

3 June 2010 Hubble images suggest rogue asteroid smacked Jupiter

21 July 2009 NASA images confirm Jupiter impact

20 July 2009 Jupiter's new impact scar?

16 July 2009 The great comet collision