Jupiter is a dynamic, fast changing planet with details at all scales and has been a source of fascination to astronomers, planetary photographers and telescope researchers for hundreds of years. On the 15th anniversary of the Shoemaker-Levy 9 (SL9) comet collision with Jupiter, another object—estimated by NASA to be roughly the size of several football fields—hit our solar system’s largest planet. Australian astronomer Anthony Wesley was the first to capture the resulting impact mark.
The SL9 event in July 1994 was the first time a collision of solar system objects beyond the bounds of our planet was observed, and drew significant media attention. While it is unknown whether the latest collision with Jupiter was with an asteroid or comet, the result is clearly visible thanks to the images taken by Wesley on July 19th, 2009.
FIGURE 1. Image showing the impact mark on Jupiter.
At his home observatory just outside of Murrumbateman in Australia, Wesley was using a 14.5” Royce conical primary telescope equipped with a 0.3 megapixel Dragonfly2 camera from Point Grey. The Dragonfly2 uses a Sony ICX424 monochrome CCD and FireWire interface, which allowed him to acquire raw 640x480 images at 50 frames per second. Coriander, an open-source graphical user interface for controlling IIDC-compliant FireWire cameras under Linux, was used to capture the images.
“Being able to run the Dragonfly2 on Linux was important for all my capture and telescope control,” says Wesley. “The high sensitivity and low noise of the CCD sensor also played a role, since I was working in a very dim light environment.”