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WIO Image of Fragment ACE Impact


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July 19, 1994, an observing team from the University of Wyoming , the University of Rochester, and the University of Minnesota is obtaining infrared images of the recent comet impacts on Jupiter. The observations are being made with the Wyoming Infrared Observatory 2.3-meter telescope near Laramie, using an infrared camera developed at Rochester. The accompanying image of Jupiter, obtained on the evening of Sunday July 17, shows three bright spots near the lower left. These are the impact sites of (from left to right) fragments C, A, and E. The other features visible are the bright polar and equatorial regions, and also the Great Red Spot, located below the equator and somewhat to the right.At this relatively short infrared wavelength (2.2 micrometers) the planet it mostly dark because the methane in the Jupiter atmosphere absorbs any sunlight which passes through a significant depth of that atmosphere. Bright regions usually correspond to high altitude clouds which reflect the sunlight before it can penetrate the deeper atmosphere and be absorbed. The bright nature of the impact spots therefore indicates the presence of high altitude haze or clouds -- material carried up from the lower atmosphere by the fireball and plume from the comet impact. More detailed measurements at a variety of wavelengths should reveal the chemical composition of the haze material. The observing team will be continuing their work throughout the comet impact period and expect to obtain images of the plumes from the other comet fragments which will be striking Jupiter later this week. Contact:

Robert R. Howell
Department of Physics and Astronomy
University of Wyoming
Laramie, WY 82070

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