But Thursday night's fireball was actually Wesley's second Jupiter impact sighting (another amateur astronomer, Christopher Go of the Philippines, confirmed the event); his first was the astonishing impact aftermath ‘bruise' in the Jovian atmosphere in July 2009. He didn't actually see that impact, but he was the first to see the huge Pacific Ocean-sized scar the impact rotate into view.
Although it was thought the 2009 impact was caused by a comet, scientists using Hubble Space Telescope data announced (also on Thursday, bizarrely) the 2009 impactor was likely a 500-meter wide asteroid instead.
And now, to showcase his most recent discovery, Wesley has published a color image of Thursday's impact event, showing the location of impact very clearly. After a bit of image processing and a combination of RGB (red, green and blue) images, he produced the wonderful photograph above, showing off details in Jupiter's banded atmosphere and exact location of the fireball.
As I mentioned in my previous article, the events on Thursday night serve as a strong reminder about how Jupiter is a critical component for life in our solar system. The gas giant acts as a gravitational ‘vacuum cleaner' swallowing any outer-solar system debris that stray too close, preventing a huge number of potentially hazardous asteroids and comets from taking a nosedive into Earth.
Studying the gas giant and understanding how many times it gets struck by comets and asteroids will help scientists understand how many chunks of rock and ice are floating around in the outer solar system. As Wesley and Christopher Go have proven, amateur astronomers from all over the world perform an increasingly important role in this endeavor.
Photo credit: Anthony Wesley