The longest solar eclipse of the 21st century is about to begin.
It starts just hours from now at 9 p.m. EDT on July 21st (0100 UT
on July 22nd). The path of totality crosses many major cities in
India and China, setting the stage for possibly the best-observed
eclipse in history. Stay tuned for photos! [full
Evidence is mounting that something hit
Jupiter no more than a few days ago. The impact site was discovered
by amateur astronomer Anthony Wesley on July 19th. Using a 14.5-inch
telescope at his backyard observatory in Murrumbateman, Australia,
he photographed a dark
scar in Jupiter's clouds. NASA astronomers rushed to confirm
the find, and with this photo from the Infrared Telescope Facility
in Hawaii, they
The bright spot is near-infrared sunlight reflected from particulate
matter floating through the top of Jupiter's atmosphere. These particulates
are likely debris from something that hit the planet and exploded.
"This has all the hallmarks of the comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 impacts
of 1994," says Leigh Fletcher of JPL who gathered the infrared
data along with colleague Glenn Orton.
If the impact hypothesis is indeed correct, the "scar"
should become spread out by jet streams in the days ahead. Amateur
astronomers can monitor events using mid-sized backyard telescopes:
sky map. The spot
is located near Jupiter's System II longitude 210°. For the predicted
times when it will cross the planet's central meridian, add 2 hours
and 6 minutes to Sky and Telescope's predicted
transit times for Jupiter's Great Red Spot.
UPDATE: On July 20th,
Dennis Simmons of Brisbane Australia recorded a 75-minute movie
of the impact site. Click on the image to launch a gif animation:
"It is quite fascinating to observe the white spot (a Mars-sized
storm) appearing to overtake the impact scar," notes Simmons.
"To make the movie I used a 7-inch Takahashi Mewlon 180 telescope
with a Vixen x2 Barlow and a DBK21AF04 ccd camera."
more images: from
Antonello Medugno of Italy; from
Robert Lunsford of Chula Vista, California; from
Jeremy Perez of Flagstaff, Arizona; from
Theo Ramakers of Social Circle, Georgia; from
Anthony Wesley of Murrumbateman, Australia; from
Ian Sharp of Ham, West Sussex, England, UK; from
David Kolb of Lawrence, Kansas; from
David Storey of Isle of Man, Great Britain; from
Frank Ryan Jr of Shannon, Ireland; from
Russell Hawker of Eastleigh, Hampshire; from
Lars Zielke of Tvis, Denmark;
Noctilucent Photo Gallery
[previous years: 2008,
the Sunspot Cycle