Exploring abrupt climate change induced by comets and asteroids during human history

Again, again, again, again — and AGAIN!: Jupiter impacts continue to defy NASA estimates


LIVE UPDATE:  See here to watch tonight for the potential scar of the impact.

The Tusk focuses laser-like on impacts experienced by ancient humans. But when called for, I share items from current events that prove our thesis that the rate of cosmic collisions is far greater than generally acknowledged by science (and NASA).

Yesterday the impossibly improbable happened once more on Jupiter: The 5th planet took the 5th slap in recent years as recorded by amateur astronomers Dan Peterson of Racine, Wisconsin and George Hall of Dallas. Hall’s video.

See earlier Tusk posts:

May 18, 2010 New Study: Impact frequency on Jupiter wrong by order of magnitude

June 4, 2010 THREEPEAT!: Jupiter takes third hit in two decades; second in a year

June 28, 2010 NASA planetary protection chief: Impact estimates flawed!

August 23, 2010 Again, again, again and again: Jupiter hit far more often that NASA models predict

News reports of the Jupiter impact that will have no follow-up:  http://bit.ly/QEom09

Below is Don Yeomans, the go-to-guy at NASA for impact threat analysis (for decades now), quoted in 2010 suggesting that it is “time we revise” our impact models. Well, Don? You have had two years — and I note no further comment and no revised impact models.

Jupiter is getting hit more than we expected. Back in the days of Shoemaker-Levy 9 (SL-9), we calculated that we should see an impact on Jupiter once every hundred years or so. We considered ourselves extraordinarily lucky to witness the SL-9 event. But look where we are now.  Anthony Wesley has observed two impacts within the past 12 months alone. It’s time to revise our impact models [particularly for small impactors]

— NASA’s Don Yeomans quoted June 10, 2010.

These people no longer have any credibility with me. Fooled me once shame on you, fooled me twice shame on me — fooled me five times in a row sc#% you. The fact that Jupiter is seen hit a fifth time now in less than two decades — with four in the last three years — is prima facie evidence that there are more objects out there that threaten the gas giant and earth.

Perhaps as alarming as NASA’s failure to adjust their statistics in the face of facts, is the science media’s failure to ask the hard questions of Yeomans, et. al.; for instance, are their Jupiter impact “models” incorrect? And what is being done to rectify them? But as we have seen time and again regarding the underestimated risk of cosmic collisions — the subject consistently eludes the curiosity and professional responsibility of the Fourth Estate.

There will be another silly round of, “Wow! Who’d a thunk?!?.” But there will be no follow-through, no hard questions, and no surprise at the Tusk.

News reports of the Jupiter impact that will have no follow-up:  http://bit.ly/QEom09



28 Responses

  1. This is not OK.

    Our government needs to protect its population. Whatever the threat, it must be PROPERLY characterized before further action. We haven’t even gotten to the “proper characterization” phase and this is a clear and present threat.

    Clear as in that light to be seen from Earth’s surface was easily in the 100s of gigatons range. Clear as in sub-continental destruction when (not if) that stuff hits Earth, years or decades of climate change, extinction of some species and widespread habitat effects from stress to complete destruction….

    If anything, this could be the ultimate destiny of the UN. Before we wait for that eventuality, however, its time to spread the word domestically and petition NASA and Congress for sure!


  2. Congress has alreay issued instructions on this to NASA. As a matter of fact, NASA is supposed to report to the Congress this month on its plan for an integrated response to the impact hazard.

    My opinion is that baring a major change in view in NASA’s SMD top management, appropriate response is likely to linger. Also, hazard estimtion needs far more funding by NSF.

    In the meantime, Project B612 is trying to raise donations for a space based telescope. They’re astronauts, and they had the right idea for their effort, wehich was to form a non-profit foundation for it. They have begun work on international co-ordination.

    I did what I could. In my opinion, a similar non-profit foundation needs to be set up to study both recent smaller impacts and impacts in general. While stroke intervened in my case, I doubt if much progress can be made by any private individual working on private resources.

    The loss of the Cambridge Conference as a cleaaring house for impact research and news was a severe blow. I don’t know who could replace Dr. Peiser in this role.

  3. Why am I paying higher property taxes to live at the edge of an Ocean basin?

    Why am I even paying property taxes at all?

    I swear I may have to stop visiting Cosmic Tusk altogether. It will be the final straw that triggers my nervous breakdown! Tooo many impacts! Tooooo many GIGATONS!

    But I will direct all policy makers here for their wake up call. And for Tusk TV. And all the cool science papers. And the devoted readership of hugely diverse and valuable experience base. And….yeah, yeah.

    – Frightened Mole.

  4. Indeed, an ocean impact may not make much of a crater; and probably very little dust, or ejecta. But all it would take is a single 100 meter bolide hitting anywhere in the Atlantic basin, and all of the coastal cities on both sides of the ocean are toast. The same holds true for the Pacific. An impact mega-tsunami from such an event would be bigger than anything an Earthquake can produce. And the potential loss of life is in the hundreds of millions.

    And it’s anybody’s guess what it would do to the global climate. But crop failures, and famines for a few years afterwords have the potential to take out another billion or so more.

  5. Is that dancing diffraction pattern Jupiter’s methane icy upper clouds? Or does Earth’s end of that light path give us those effects, like monatomic oxygen in the “somewhere upper” atmosphere, i.e. ionosphere of Earth? Or is that local thermal turbulence being collimated by the ground based optic? I wonder what was the spectrum of the detector of that video camera. Should make good reading as that gets reported.

    I’m guessing Jovian methane. Ice. Jovian methane ice.

    – Frightened Mole, daring to review replay for clarity. Still frightened.

  6. Hi Thomas –

    The specifications of the system used to obtain the images is available online.

  7. Also, this book:
    Mitigation of Hazardous Comets and Asteroids, by editors Michael J. S. Belton, Thomas H. Morgan, Nalin H. Samarasinha, Donald K. Yeomans. Cambridge Univ Press (2006, paperback 2011).


    Contains articles by these contributors: W. Bottke, A. Morbidelli, R. Jedicke, S. R. Chesley, T. B.Spahr, S. J. Ostro, J. D. Giorgini, E. Asphaug, C. R. Chapman, K. A. Holsapple, A. W. Harris, M. D. Martino, A. Cellino, C. Gritzner, R. Kahle, W. Kofman, A. Safaeinili, J. D. Walker, W. F. Huebner, A. J. Ball, P. Lognonne, K. Seiferlin, M. Patzold, T. Spohn, B. A. Conway, D. J. Scheeres, D. Sears, M. Franzen, S. Moore, S. Nichols, M. Kareev, P. Benoit, D. Morrison, C. R. Chapman, D. Steel, R. P. Binzel, M. J. S. Belton.

    Note Duncan Steel, others.

    Also Jon D. Giorgini, JPL radar expert who in an email straightened me out on infeasibility of any radar search Taurid comet debris stream for larger size objects. See his article on Apophis impact (now low probability, final confirmation expected 2013).

  8. NASA has been relying on Morrison’s early and faultily low impact estimates to shrug off the problem.

    The task is to prevent “faultily” from becoming “fatally”.

  9. This strikes me as a shooting star sort of event, an incoming object flaring up as it encounters an atmosphere. It seems reasonable that such an object would do it at the top of Jupiter’s atmosphere, as this seems to be. It also seems reasonable that it would flare briefly – as Earth’s shooting stars and many meteors do. Do we have any video from the shuttle or ISS of what these look like from above? It’s briefness suggests it was more like a shooting star than an impactor. I see nothing that would rule out such an event. There is no reason from SL-9 to suggest that that is the only kind of event that we might see on Jupiter; on the contrary, we should expect to see all sorts of varying events. If most objects entering Earth’s atmosphere are tiny and flare briefly, it seems consistent that most entering Jupiter’s atmosphere would do the same, and it would also seem that larger ones would flare on Jupiter than on Earth (instead of impacting), and make larger flares when they do.

    Therefore, I don’t think this event can be classed with SL-9 as an impactor, especially since there was no residual blemish/bruise left from it. It looks like a transitory event of little importance. We don’t need to be all alarmist over a shooting star on Jupiter.

  10. Save your Straw Man, Steve, its not SL-9 impactor and I did not say it was. It is an impact visible from earth with a 10-inch backyard telescope. NASA told us the time before last that such sightings are so rare that their impact estimates would have to be revised. They did no such thing as far as I know — and it happened twice more.

    I am surprised you don’t recognize the importance and relevance to our subject of the frequency of Jupiter impacts, Steve. We are seeing more of something NASA said should not happen — not something NASA said we could not yet see because not enough geeks have scopes. Clearly, I need to flesh this out. \

    By the way, Jupiterians are not seeing “shooting stars” on earth, at least for the time being.

  11. No straw man, George. I see a shooting star as a non-impact event is all. Like sprites in some ways, perhaps. All I see is a flare, and ny first reaction was “Wow! An impact!” But then there was no remnant blemish, even as viewed by Hubble. Ergo we should begin looking at other possible explanations also. It might be a type of impact we don’t recognize yet, but it behooves us to look at other explanations, too. And from reading comments on some of the kinks, it seems at least one of the post-SL-9 events also showed no remnant blemishes. The lack of remnant blemishes (called bruises by some) suggests another type of event, one perhaps considerably different from SL-9. My mind goes to shooting stars. I am not claiming to be right, but I believe they should be part of the discussion. By including them a third possibility might turn up along the way. It is certain to me that this event was dissimilar to SL-9. Perhaps (most likely, IMHO) it is only a matter of size – but that is all it takes when talking about threats. IMHO.

  12. George, I DO totally see the importance of Jupiter impacts. However, there are events between objects and planetary atmospheres that may not rise to the level of “impacts”. The size of this object the other day still may have been something that, if it hit Earth, may be a danger. I was not arguing that one way or another. What constitutes a shooting star on Jupiter with its super dense atmosphere might, indeed, impact Earth with its thinner atmosphere. But perhaps this object was not one of those. We need to look at it as objectively as possible, and that – to me – is to look for other explanations first, before jumping to a conclusion that happens to agree with our POV about the threat.

  13. Hi Steve –

    Denial takes many forms.

    Neither George nor myself really have the time to correct your misunderstandings here. I will mention that all of these impacts are bring used to determine the atmosphere of Jupiter.

    That said, the most important fact concerning the lack of impact scars is the lack of Hubble infrared observing time to find them. I don’t know about the limits of ground based observational instruments.

    I suppose if I come across any impact scar images
    I will post links to them here, and I ask that everyone else do the same.

    The lack of SL9 imagery post processing I have already commented on.

  14. Considering the difference in scale of the two planets, the size of the brilliant flash of that “shooting star” on Jupiter we see in the visible spectrum alone,(as wide as any continent on Earth) and the distance from which we are able to see it clearly, describes an object with sufficient energies to trigger an extinction level event shoould something like fall anywhere here on Earth.

    There’s not enough data to characterized the exact nature of the bolide that did it. But it’s the number of witnessed impacts since SL-9 with sufficient energies to be visible from Earth by Amateur astronomers with fairly small telescopes that speaks so loudly to a gross underestimate of the impact flux for the entire solar system.

  15. Agreed, Dennis, that there is an underestimate. What vit means cannot be determined – specifically because the evidence is only from amateur astronomers. Drawing conclusions other than the need for further study would be premature. We can sit and talk about it all day, but we here do not have the wherewithal to do anything or influence anyone with such means to do anything about it. I agree in principle that the bolide/impactor probably would have been serious news for Earth, but possibly not.

    The question that comes to my mind is how many of these things were occurring prior to SL-9 that we were blind to, either because of no Hubble or (much more likely) that we simply weren’t looking because we were so sure about the low frequency.

  16. Passionate and highly skilled amateur astronomers have been gazing intently at Jupiter with 12 to 16 inch Telescopes every available viewing night during its closest passage to Earth for a lot longer than just the 8 Years since SL-9.

    So it’s not like no one’s been looking. And it’s difficult to not interpret the past few years as anything but an increase in the impact flux.

  17. “We can sit and talk about it all day, but we here do not have the wherewithal to do anything or influence anyone with such means to do anything about it.”

    Steve, you’re speaking solely for yourself there.

    Just to clarify the observation, the development of CCD frame recording has allowed the observation of impacts on both Jupiter and our Moon.

    What is needed now by the community of impact researchers is a clearing house like the Cambridge Conference.

  18. Barry,
    the Eltanin crater in your msg was discovered by Frank Kyte, UCLA, sailing on USS Eltanin in 1965. He later made more discoveries on RV Polarstern, Bremerhaven, sailing with Rainer Gersonde, Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, Bremerhaven, detailing meteorite deposits by drilling the ocean bottom in the Bellinghausen Sea. Kyte also discovered the Chicxulub comet “fossil” (EPG) in the Pacific. For Frank’s photo: http://www.ess.ucla.edu/people/researchers/416/

  19. Hi Hermann –

    Thanks for the link.

    Its strange – Kyte also funded Keller’s work while at NSF, while work on the Shiva structure did not occur.

    I assume that Russia wil be using part of its diamond money to fund impact research.

  20. George: “Perhaps as alarming as NASA’s failure to adjust their statistics in the face of facts, is the science media’s failure to ask the hard questions of Yeomans, et. al.; for instance, are their Jupiter impact “models” incorrect? And what is being done to rectify them?”

    The real question to them should be – HAS TO BE:

    WTF is your science based on that it can be so wrong?

    Follow ups:

    1. Don’t you feel embarrassed for being so wrong?

    2. Don’t you think you should step down and let someone else take your job? Someone from OUTSIDE NASA? (It’s not just Yeomans. The whole crew at NASA is responsible. If they had more accurate science and then fell in line with the party line, and if they didn’t holler loud and long, then they don’t deserve to be there. The failure should go on everybody’s CV.)

    But as government science goes, the next guy down the GS line will likely get the job. Failure doesn’t mean no promotion.

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