Since news of the dark spot, photographed and first reported by Anthony Wesley on July 19, a ton of telescopes have been trained on the giant planet around the world. The one telescope that could give the earliest confirmation that it was indeed an imapact has now weighed in. JPL’s Infrared Telescope Facility on Mauna Kea in Hawaii has returned this great image:
What you’re seeing is heat being given off in the area of the black spot. This indicates that there’s an upwelling of warm gaseous material from lower in the atmosphere, much like dropping a rock in a pool of water brings a fountain of water shooting back up. If the James Webb Space telescope were in place right now, it could be returning some amazingly crisp IR images of this area. Guess we’ll just have to wait another five years. <sigh>
In the meantime, multiple-frame movies are starting to eke out onto the web. Here’s a pretty nice one by Dennis Simmons of Brisbane Australia:
Notice how the white spot seems to overtake the dark spot. That’s because the different latitudes rotate at different velocities. Because of this dynamic and other properties of atmospheres, the spot should start to spread out over the next few days. Exciting stuff!