Monday, November 29, 1999

NASA telescope solves mystery of light flash on Jupiter

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Washington, June 17 (ANI): Scientists have finally found an explanation for the mysterious burst of light on Jupiter on Jan 3rd.The flash of light came from a giant meteor that was burning high above Jupiter's cloud tops. The meteor didn't enter the atmosphere deep enough to explode and leave any telltale signs.The sharp vision and ultraviolet sensitivity of Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3 was brought to seek any trace evidence of the aftermath of the cosmic collision. Because there were no signs of debris above Jupiter's cloud tops, the scientists concluded that the object didn't descend beneath the clouds and explode as a fireball."If it did, dark sooty blast debris would have been ejected and would have rained down onto the cloud tops, and the impact site would have appeared dark in the ultraviolet and visible images due to debris from an explosion. "We see no feature that has those distinguishing characteristics in the known vicinity of the impact, suggesting there was no major explosion and fireball," says team member Heidi Hammel of the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.Astronomers believe that the smallest detectable events may happen as frequently as every few weeks."The meteor flashes are so brief they are easily missed, even in video recordings, or perhaps misidentified as detector noise or cosmic ray hits on imaging devices," says team member Mike Wong of the University of California at Berkeley."It's difficult to even know what the current impact rates are throughout the solar system. That's partly why we are so excited by the latest impact. It illustrates a new capability that can be exploited with increased monitoring of Jupiter and the other planets," says Amy Simon-Miller of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Centre, the principal investigator on the Jupiter observation. (ANI)

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