Shoemaker-Levy 9 impact site G. Credit: ESA.

Since it was first detected that Jupiter has an atmosphere with water it has been a mystery. But now the Hershel observatory has delivered new information that provides an answer to the mystery. It arrived with a comet 19 years ago.

It was the comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 that brought the water into Jupiter’s atmosphere. The comet struck Jupiter on 6 July 1994. With this dramatic impact, is divided into 21 pieces and several spots on Jupiter was visible for weeks afterward.

Water in Jupiter’s atmosphere. Credit: ESA.

It is the ESA Herschel space observatory that confirmed that it was this impact that brought the water to Jupiter’s atmosphere. The water is namely unevenly distributed throughout the atmosphere, but most evident around the areas where the comet hit.

Space Scientists have long suspected that there was a connection between Jupiter’s water and Shoemaker-Levy 9. But it is only now with the observatory’s infrared cameras that the water in the atmosphere can be examined in detail.

Thibault Cavalié of the Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Bordeaux, lead author of the paper published in Astronomy and Astrophysics writes; “According to our models, as much as 95% of the water in the stratosphere is due to the comet impact.”

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Herschel links Jupiter’s water to comet impact