Impact detection of small objects on giant gases planets

How many time we have thought in which way to use our own not professional astronomy data?

I was still a young boy, during the summertime of my II class in secondary school when the Shoemaker – Levy 9 (SL9) comet crashed into Jupiter atmosphere. The big collision phenomenon attracted attention of scientists and media. The probability that comet hit the Earth instead of Jupiter was one of the most proposed questions. From that time the monitoring of our neighborod planets was the leitmotiv of several not professional astronomists and also the research of comets at not professional levels was another point. The solar system is no static like we think and for the future the human being has to think about “defense” in case of asteroid, comets or other “big impacting objects”.

Comet impacts are rare. Anyway, several asteroids or other small object can impact planets surfaces.

One of the most interesting activity that a not professional astronomers can play is to partecipate to community projects. After a long time I can confirm that the most interesting and accesible to all of us not professional is DeTeCt Impact project.

From the 2010 is a matter of fact that using small telescopes (with a diameter greater than 15 cm) is feasable to give a strong contribution to the scientific community. Around the opposition time, each planet offers the best condition for an easy recording of images through fast ccd or cmos planetary cam.

Once I moved from 8″ Meade LDX 55 to C11 XLT SCT, I started to take higher resolution images and,under good seeing condition, excellent planetary images. Year after year, thousands Gigabyte of data have filled my hard-disks. A day I discovered, reading newsletters, a free tool arose from an international project. The scientific curiosity has brought me to download the software and analyze my data.

I used The Imaging Source DMK 21 AU04.AS, then a Zwo ASI 120 MM and today a ASI 178 MM.

What happen during an impact?

Small bodies (from 5 to 20 meters) fall on jupiter or saturn several time in a year. This is not meaning they will for sure fall down. Of course, there’s not a remote possibility that somtehing will hit the surface. These bodies are not straightly visible through our telescopes but the resultant events like a small and quick short flash is produced can be detected

These small bodies do not leave on the surface visible effects. Only transient bright fireball flashes are the key objective of the study.

Once a flash is observed, it is raised an alarm in order to find out a confirmation in a second or a third video showing the same phenomenon through all the community participants. If it is confirmed, for sure, it will be a great day.

So, recording such flashes with our planetary cams is possibile to support the scientific community.

How to do it?

Participation to the project is simple: just send your log files to:, informing of course of any possible detection!

Here a presentation showing the method used and all the scientific info:

I use to download the free tool DeTeCt Impact software at the following link.

The tool algorithm is developed by Marc Delcroix and Emil Kraaikamp.

Nowday, I submitted cumulative 0.4 days (quite 10 hours) of data from 2014 to 2020 and I’m in the middle of a long list of partecipants (at 8.30 minutes you can see me with my c11).

Within my data I have found several spot with a confidence/rating effect >2 and between 2 an 4. So, unfortunately I have not yet found impacts, but I’m so happy to have submitted my data to Marc Delcroix attention. Each session of imaging has been followed by DeTeCt analysis and the report from the tool sent by email to Mr. Delcroix.

Trust in data! Even if I haven’t found through the DeTeCt any potential flash related to impacts, I’m using to submit anyway my detect folder and files to Marc Delcroix. This is really helpul to improve the estimation of impacts frequency. All the improvements in differential photometry are from an enrichment of data and amore robust case-history.

On YouTube is visible the project and the results till today.

Acknowledgments and thanks

My best wish and thanks to Marc Delcroix, giving me the possibility to publish on my blog about the project. Thank you Mr.Delcroix

Marc Delcroix (,
Commission des observations planétaires, Société Astronomique de France