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Faint Fuzzy Observations

   94 - An Attempt to Spot the New July 2009
        Jupiter Collision, 7/21/09

Posted 7/21/09:

Hot off the press! FIRST POST of views of Jupiter collision? - 2 am

Updates: My tentative observation -- posted below in the middle of the night immediately after making the drawings -- seems not be a mistake. According to Sue French, her husband Alan has read a report of someone spotting the phenomenon with a 102 mm telescope. Here are some articles with late-breaking information:

    • Impact on Jupiter! on Sky & Telescope website;

    • Jupiter adds a feature on the astronomy blog of Claudio Marchesin;

    • Brian Skiff's post to "Amastro" about viewing the spot with aperture as small as ten inches, and suggestion that it might be "straightforward to see" even with 6 inches, in steady air.

    • Jeremy Perez in Arizona has confirmed the essentials of my drawings, with his own far more artistic sketch.

    • Find the transit times of the new collision spot on the website of See end of article below for new drawing I made with 10" scope.

    • The spot seemed to look a little different to me, on the morning of 7/28/09: details in the update below.

I tried to look at's website, but it crashes my browser Firefox! -- srw, 7/21/09, 12:34 pm

I am not entirely sure that I really have seen the new Jupiter collision that has been discovered and imaged by Australian amateur astronomer Anthony Wesley. But, I gave it a try, and perhaps my drawings have shown something. I'll have to check them carefully against other bona fide images, and also any possible amateur visual sightings.

I first heard about this exciting new event on a thread in the Yahoo group Amastro, initially posted Sunday night, 19 July 2009. by Jerry Lodriguss. Late that night, not knowing exactly when the suspected dark collision marking would transit, I gave Jupiter some close scrutiny with my Orion 4.7 inch f/8 refractor -- and saw nothing out of the ordinary.

But with the information provided by the helpful post made by Greg Crinklaw on Monday night, I learned that the new dark marking -- which had been confirmed by NASA as a true collision aftermath (by an unknown body, possibly a comet) -- would be centered at about 12:30 AM PDT.

I began cooling down the refractor at 11 pm, and started observing Jupiter at 11:40, in the driveway of my San Jose, California home. The seeing gradually improved from about Pickering 6 to 7, with occasionally quite blurry patches, to a pretty consistent 7 to 8, with moments of crystal clear steadiness, by the time I finished observing at 1:30 am.

My wife Regina Roper took this snapshot of the Old Man -- "You kids turn down that rock'n'roll, and GET OFF MY LAWN!" -- diligently working at his sketching:

Stephen sketching Jupiter with 4.7 inch scope

I had been sitting down for the first half hour of observing, using several 1.25" eyepieces that were so light that I could turn the diagonal nearly horizontally. But finally I tried comparing my Baader Hyperion and Orion Stratus oculars with the smaller eyepieces, and decided that the image quality was remarkably better, with lower internal reflections, higher contrast, and sharper resolution than with various ocular+Barlow combinations using my 1.25" eyepieces. Unfortunately the 2" eyepieces were so heavy that the diagonal would not hold them at a convenient angle for sit-down sketching, so I carefully balanced my notebook and leaned on my observing chair, standing up.

There was, indeed, a small, fine, barely-perceptible dark spot near the central meridian of Jupiter, fading in and out with seeing fluctuations. But unfortunately the image scale -- and the scope's limit of resolution -- did not enable me to see the small white ovals that are near the impact spot, which would have made it possible to confirm that I was seeing exactly what Anthony had imaged. Did I see it? Or as it merely "wishful thinking?"

Jupiter & Galilean moons at 192x with 120 mm scope

The sketch above was made over a period of about ten minutes' time, after 12:30am, using the 120 mm f/8 refractor at 192x, with the 5 mm Orion Stratus eyepiece. I have marked the tiny speck that I suspect that might have been the barely-perceived collision remnant.

Large scale sketch of Jupiter at 274x with 120 mm scope

I made the large scale sketch, above, using the 3.5 mm Baader Hyperion eyepiece, at 274x. The magnification was a little bit too high, and the image was somewhat softened; but I needed the larger scale in order to be able to register some hard to perceive detail in Jupiter's cloud bands. I won't claim that this is a reliably realistic sketch; it's more of an impression of what could barely be discerned. At lower power, using my 6 mm Expanse (160x) or 7.5 mm Lanthanum (128x), Jupiter was wonderfully crisp and clear, with good contrast; but I found it very hard to quantify the actual visible details and register them on the paper with such a small sized planetary disk.

I'll have to check other sources and compare my drawings with further images; I'm sure that a plethora of them will appear within the next 24 hours. I may have to recant and decide that the little faint speck was merely an ordinary variance in the cloud bands; we'll see.

But, whether I did perceive this collision or not, it was fun! I had planned to do deep sky observing at my mountaintop site on Monday night, but a problem with my main computer system router ate up most of the afternoon; climbing around behind cabinets to trace ethernet cables, I managed to wrench my back (which sustained a bad injury many decades ago, causing badly crushed vertebrae.) So, by 4 to 5 pm Monday, I was in no mood to go on an observing jaunt. However, I think I had almost as much fun going after this unusual Jupiter phenomenon!

    UPDATE, 7/23/09: Sue French sent me a link provided by her husband Alan French to the website of Hans-Joerg Mettig, author of WinJUPOS, an application for studying Jupiter. Hans has a link in the top frame for the "Approximate C.M. transit times of the impact feature at -57 deg. South", and this brings up a page with calculations in universal time. I determined that the spot would be on Jupiter's central meridian in the early morning of 23 July 09, and after completing a study of some galaxies from 10 pm to 2:55 am, I turned my 10 inch scope to Jupiter (at my mountaintop location on the Pacific coast, north of Santa Cruz, at 3400 feet elevation.) The new collision marking was very clearly seen and quite dark: a short narrow streak. I had finished five hours of intense observing and was in the process of putting my gear away; but the view of the marking was so dramatic that I took a few moments to go over to my table and record a very crude sketch in my observing logbook (as noted, I did not take the time to draw in any other planetary markings):

    Marking on Jupiter, 7/23/09, with 10 inch scope at 240x

    I was using a 5 mm narrow field eyepiece, which yielded 240x magnification (it cut off the Galilean moon Io, which may be seen below in the simulation that I created with TheSky VI, for the same time.)

    Jupiter, simulated by TheSky VI for 3 am PDT, 7/23/09

    I believe I witnessed a shadow transit of one of the Galilean moons, which may be seen near the limb. I recorded in my notebook that the shadow was "very black and round, and collision mark was almost as dark -- but narrower and longer." This position of the marking was perfect confirmation of the way I'd seen it in the 4.7 inch scope (which reverses the field but does not invert it.) So, considering how conspicuous it is in a 10 inch f/4.7 reflector telescope, I would imagine that it shows up almost equally well in an 8 inch scope; I can certainly believe that it is visible in a 4 inch, and MAYBE under absolutely perfect seeing, in a 3 inch that has flawless optics.)

    Update, 7/25/09: The prediction for the transit of the collision marking across Jupiter's central meridian, on this date, was for about 4 am local Pacific time. I had finished more than five hours of faint galaxy-hunting, and at about 3:30 I trained my 10" scope on the Jovian planet. It seemed to me, at 240x, that the collision marking was somewhat wider in longitudinal dimension. I carefully tried 341x, magnification that softened the planet a bit, but was usable in the clarity and steadiness of my mountaintop location. Yes: the marking had a very easily discernible shape; was long and very narrow, with a very slight bulge in the center. I also viewed another shadow transit of one of Jupiter's moons, which at this magnification had rendered a flawlessly round, black spot on the cloud-tops. (I imagined what two Jovians would say to one another: "Xyxzix, do you wanna see another eclipse of the Sun?" "No, Scryzximinix, why bother? They happen all the time!") Just before I put the scope away, I checked again at about 3:55 am, and the marking was nearly at the central meridian, as 'scheduled'.-- srw, 7.25.09

    Update, 7/28/09: I was finishing up a long project of investigating galaxies near M-13, and noticed that the predicted CM-transit of the collision spot was close to the time I finished the last of the painfully- faint galaxies; so now I could risk losing some dark adaptation by checking out the view of Jupiter using my 10" scope (at the mountaintop site, at 3400 feet altitude, north of Santa Cruz.) Hans-Jörg Mettig's prediction of visibility was right on the nose! Here is a scan of the page of my logbook, in which I seemed to detect a little bit of change in the shape of the spot.

Waldee Jupiter sketch and logbook entry of 7.28.09

    It seemed to me that the marking had become a bit broader, turning into a sort of slight wedge-shape; but this is hard to assert based on the image scale, admittedly VERY small even at 240x magnification. I tried over 300x, but though the spot was visible, now it was just too fuzzy to make out precisely. My sketch shows a magnified "insert" of the way I rendered the spot by pencil, blown up large enough to make out. I can't claim it is exactly the way it looks; but it might be suggested by the Gemini Observatory picture, shown in this MSNBC article (which features the new Hubble Telescope image.) -- srw, 7/28/09


(Edited and updated 7/22, 25, 28/09.)

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Posted 21 July 2009; last edited for the web: 28 July 2009. Last edited: Thursday 9 October 2014 at 11:08 am. Copyright © 2007-14 Stephen R. Waldee - All Rights Reserved. All Trademarks or Copyrights are © or Property of Their Respective Copyright Holders.
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