Hubble snaps picture of Jupiter impact site

Hubble Space Telescope, still undergoing checkout after a shuttle servicing mission in May, takes dramatic pictures of Jupiter that show remnants of a presumed impact.

The Hubble Space Telescope, still undergoing tests and checkout after a May shuttle servicing mission, snapped a dramatic photo of Jupiter this week showing the atmospheric disturbance left behind after a presumed comet or icy asteroid crashed into the giant planet.

The photograph, taken by the new Wide Field Camera 3, is the first science observation released from Hubble since the telescope was upgraded and repaired.

The Hubble Space Telescope's Wide Field Camera 3 imaged Jupiter this week, showing the site of a presumed impact. NASA

"The details seen in the Hubble view shows lumpiness in the debris plume caused by turbulence in Jupiter's atmosphere," NASA said in a statement. "The impactor is estimated to be the size of several football fields.

"The force of the explosion on Jupiter was thousands of times more powerful than the suspected comet or asteroid that exploded in June 1908 over the Tunguska River Valley in Siberia."

The impact, discovered by Australian amateur astronomer Anthony Wesley, came 15 years after Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 crashed into Jupiter in 1994, the only other known impact in recent history.

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About the author

    Bill Harwood has been covering the U.S. space program full-time since 1984, first as Cape Canaveral bureau chief for United Press International and now as a consultant for CBS News. He has covered more than 125 shuttle missions, every interplanetary flight since Voyager 2's flyby of Neptune, and scores of commercial and military launches. Based at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Harwood is a devoted amateur astronomer and co-author of "Comm Check: The Final Flight of Shuttle Columbia." You can follow his frequent status updates at the CBS News Space page.

     

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