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Jupiter gets whacked-again!

According to news reports, the Keck Observatory, atop Hawaii's Mt. Kea volcano, captured the impact last week via an infrared camera. Astronomers believe they can learn about the behavior of Jupiter's atmosphere by studying the rate at which the impact hole expanded and dissipated.

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope was quickly redirected from its deep-space work to inspect the Jupiter impact site.

Hubble returned several outstanding natural color images of the impact scene. Also, Hubble's brand new camera-installed by shuttle astronauts in May-payed for itself by providing astronomers with high-resolution, visible-light pictures of Jupiter's wound.

One amateur astronomer's accidental discovery of the giant impact on Jupiter illustrates the need for more international vigilance regarding erratic, natural space objects grazing too near the Earth.

More governments need to support deep sky observing programs that monitor Earth-approaching asteroids and comets.

This writer believes climate change concerns pale when compared to the extinction threat of a massive asteroid blow to Earth. Even with that said, there's no fleet of space arks planned, a la the 1950s sci-fi film "When Worlds Collide", to evacuate essential human beings (you and me) off planet.

What's in the Sky: Aug. 12-13 is the projected peak of the 2009 annual Perseids Meteor Shower (up to 60 meteors per hour). The peak occurs Aug. 12 and ends Aug. 22. The radiant for the shower is the constellation Perseus. Look to the northeast starting midnight.

Louis Varricchio, M.Sc., is a former NASA science writer. He is Vermont's NASA-JPL Solar System Ambassador and promotes public interest in space science and space exploration around the state.

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