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Amateur astronomers help pros learn more about Jupiter

 

Narrator:            This is Science Today. Back in 1994, the planet Jupiter experienced a huge impact from fragments of a comet. It was predicted at the time to be a "once-a-century" type of event. But then in 2009, amateur astronomers noticed a brown spot near Jupiter's South Pole that looked similar to the aftermath of the collision 15 years earlier. Their observations piqued the interest of professional astronomers, who asked for time on the Hubble Space Telescope to check it out.

de Pater:            In this case, we think it was an asteroidal object, not a comet that fell into Jupiter.

Narrator:            Imke de Pater, chair of the astronomy department at the University of California, Berkeley, says professionals greatly benefit from the observations made by amateurs.

de Pater:            They are so valuable. They have their day job and then at night, they observe and that is how these discoveries are made. So, we hope that we can work together and perhaps even get dedicated telescopes because it gives us an idea of what actually is out there near Jupiter's orbit.

Narrator:            For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.