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Jupiter takes it on the chin

Images suggest an object has recently struck the giant planet

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5:27pm, July 21, 2009

Jupiter has taken another hit.

A new scar in Jupiter’s upper atmosphere reveals that an object has recently bashed the giant planet’s south polar region. The strike is only the second time in recorded history that a large projectile has been known to strike a giant planet.

The discovery comes 15 years after fragments of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 hit Jupiter and created a memorable display of dark spots, waves and plumes.

Amateur and professional astronomers around the globe are now training telescopes on the planet to study the evolution of the new scar and to determine if the projectile is part of a series of fragments that might create an extended spectacle over the next week, notes planetary scientist Hal Weaver of the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md. The newly refurbished Hubble Space Telescope will soon join the effort, says Matt Mountain, director of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Md.

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