Astronomers have finally found direct proof that almost all water present in Jupiter’s stratosphere, an intermediate atmospheric layer, was delivered by comet Shoemaker-Levy 9, which struck the planet in 1994. The findings are based on new data from the Herschel space observatory and reveal more water in Jupiter’s southern hemisphere, where the impacts occurred, than in the north. Herschel is a European Space Agency mission.
The origin of water in the upper atmospheres of the solar system’s giant planets has been a hot topic among planetary astronomers since the late ’90s. Astronomers were quite surprised when water was found in the stratospheres of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune by ESA’s Infrared Space Observatory.
The composite photo at left was assembled from separate images of Jupiter and comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 taken by the Hubble Space Telescope in 1994.
Image Credits: Top, ESA. Left, NASA