Debris Field of the July 19, 2009, Impact in Jupiter and Its Long-term Evolution

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American Geophysical Union


A multi-platform suite of imaging and spectroscopic observations of Jupiter's atmosphere tracked the evolution of the debris field of an unknown impactor on 2009 July 19. The initial debris field is similar to those of intermediate Shoemaker-Levy 9 fragments, suggesting a body hundreds of meters in size, if icy, entering from the west and slightly north. The field is detectable in the visible as dark material and in the near-IR by high-altitude particulate reflectivity; it was quickly redistributed by different zonal flows across its latitudinal range. At first, the particulate field was highly correlated with areas of enhanced temperatures and enhanced ammonia and ethane emission, but this was no longer true by mid-August. As of Sept. 2, the debris field was undetectable in the thermal, detectable in the visible with good seeing, and still prominent near 2 microns wavelength. Visibly, the impact "scar" consists of two dark regions along the same latitude, ostensibly different from the central bright region associated with the near-IR debris pattern. Both morphologies show eastern and western extensions propagating away from the original impact site, which appear to be influenced by flows around vortices previously undetected in Jupiter atmosphere. These observations define the flow field just north of Jupiter's southern polar vortex at higher altitudes than tracked in Jupiter's main cloud deck.