The Living Force
This article was highly inspired by Laura's series on Comets and some items in the recent news. I hope I've adequately quoted and referenced where appropriate. If not, please let me know so I can correct it.
In case you missed it last week, there were some pretty interesting astronomical observations made. First of all, Jupiter seems to have been impacted by some large object, no less on the anniversary of the Shoemaker-Levy 9 impact which rocked Jupiter 14 years ago.
An amateur Australian astronomer has set the space-watching world on fire after discovering that a rare comet or asteroid had crashed into Jupiter, leaving an impact the size of Earth.
Anthony Wesley, 44, a computer programmer from Murrumbateman, a village north of Canberra, made the discovery about 1am yesterday using his backyard 14.5-inch reflecting telescope.
The impact would have occurred no more than two days earlier and will only be visible for another few days.
Within hours, his images had spread across the internet on science websites.
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory confirmed the discovery at 9pm yesterday using its large infrared telescope at the summit of Mauna Kea in Hawaii.
The only other time astronomers have discovered evidence of a space object having hit Jupiter was when the Shoemaker-Levy 9 comet collided with the giant planet in July, 1994.
Next we find an unusual bright spot on Venus, which so far astronomers have been unable to determine a cause for. The speculation now is that this spot was caused by volcanic activity on the surface of Venus, but this cannot be confirmed. It is still likely the spot could be another impact or perhaps an indirect result of an impact.
An intense bright spot has appeared in the clouds of Venus. Could it be associated with volcanic activity on the surface?
The Solar System is breaking out in spots. First Jupiter took a smack from a passing asteroid or comet, manifesting as a dark scar in the Jovian atmosphere, and now Venus is sporting a brilliant white spot in its southern polar region.
In an alert to fellow amateur astronomers, Venus observer Frank Melillo reports on his images captured on 19 July: "I have seen bright spots before but this one is an exceptional bright and quite intense area."
Venus' bright spot as captured by Frank Melillo from New York. Image courtesy Frank Melillo.
He suggests that it could be explained as an atmospheric effect, but could it be a sign of volcanic activity at the planet's surface? Venus is covered in a thick cloak of clouds which prevents any visible observation of the surface. Instead, radar is used to map the surface, but volcanic activity has never been observed directly.
"A volcanic eruption would be nice, but let's wait and find out!" says Venus specialist Dr Sanjay Limaye of the University of Wisconsin. "An eruption would have to be quite energetic to get a cloud this high." Furthermore, at a latitude of 50 degrees south, the spot lies outside the region of known volcanoes on Venus.
Melillo comments that the spot will not be seen again as intense as it is now, thanks to the rapid rotation of the planet's atmosphere. "I hope that someone will image Venus on Thursday when this part of the atmosphere is facing us again," he says.
Let's also not forget about Flight 447 and the speculation that this flight may have been taken down by a high altitude cometary explosion.
So what does this all mean to all of us living on the Big Blue Marble? Perhaps we should review some of what is known about catastrophism and the cycles of human history. Much of what influences us on this planet may have a primary factor of a cosmic nature which is often overlooked.