Detailed observations made by the Hubble Space Telescope have found an answer to the flash of light seen June 3 on Jupiter. It came from a giant meteor burning up high above Jupiter's cloud tops. The space visitor did not plunge deep enough into the atmosphere to explode and leave behind any telltale cloud of debris, as seen in previous Jupiter collisions.
Hubble's sharp vision and ultraviolet sensitivity were brought to bear on seeking out any trace evidence of the aftermath of the cosmic collision (right inset). Images taken on June 7 show no sign of dark debris above Jupiter's cloud tops. This means that the object didn't descend beneath the clouds and explode as a fireball. If it had, dark sooty blast debris would have been ejected and subsequently would have settled down onto the cloud tops.
Australian amateur astronomer Anthony Wesley saw the flash at 4:31 p.m. (EDT) on June 3. He was watching a live video feed of Jupiter from his telescope. In the Philippines, amateur astronomer Chris Go confirmed that he had simultaneously recorded the transitory event on video.
This natural color photo was taken in visible light with Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3.
Credit: NASA, ESA, M.H. Wong (University of California, Berkeley), H.B. Hammel (Space Science Institute, Boulder, Colo.), A.A. Simon-Miller (Goddard Space Flight Center), and the Jupiter Impact Science Team