A space stone crashed into Jupiter

A space stone crashed into Jupiter

The gas giant seems to have experienced a rather significant shock event, and an extraterrestrial meteor flash was caught by amateur astronomers, who were just lucky to direct their telescopes to Jupiter and its satellites in time.

As the largest and most massive planet in the solar system, the gas giant is not familiar with the blows from wandering space stones. The fact is that the gravitational field of Jupiter is a kind of interplanetary vacuum, which is often regarded as a defender of the inner Solar System. Any asteroid or comet that is too close to the planet, burst into tatters and drawn into the inexorably dense atmosphere of Jupiter at high speed.

According to Phil Plath, two amateur astronomers in Austria and Ireland reported the latest impact on Jupiter and saw a suspicious flash on the limb of Jupiter at about the same time. It is not yet known whether the flash was caused by an asteroid or a comet.

It would just be interesting if only one observer could see a meteor. But this would leave some ambiguity as to whether the flash was caused by a physical impact or failure in the observer's CCD camera, or some optical aberrations appeared in the telescope's lens. But there are two observers who saw this event at the same time in the same place of the atmosphere of Jupiter. And this is more than just an accident. With two observers, there is a fairly high probability that on March 17, an asteroid or comet crashed into Jupiter. See for yourself on the video:

These shots were captured by Gerrit, which is located in Mödling, Austria. An amateur astronomer realized that he managed to capture the flash only after watching the video after 10 days. At the same time, John McKeon, who observed Jupiter near Dublin, Ireland, also reported that he had seen a bright flash.

Videotaping Jupiter is not a rare astronomical technique. Although you would not expect to see many actions from a massive planet any evening, some frames of the video were processed by an astronomical program and some frames were put together to get the final high-resolution image. This method is used to remove turbidity and turbulence caused by atmospheric effects. But very rarely, these surveys are able to capture an odd transient event, such as a meteoric flash:

Watching a bright flash across millions of miles of interplanetary space, one might get the impression that Jupiter was hit by something rather large. Plat mentions in his blog that the object was probably no more than a few tens of meters wide. Since Jupiter has a more powerful gravitational field than the Earth, objects fall into the atmosphere of Jupiter about five times faster than they would have entered the Earth’s atmosphere. High speed means more energy, therefore (from the kinetic energy equation E = 1 / 2mv2) we expect that the object of impact in Jupiter had 25 times more energy than comparable objects for impact into the Earth’s atmosphere. This means that 25 times more energy will be released, thus producing a larger flash. If you have a little feeling of deja vu right now, then you are right. Of course, this is not the first time that amateur astronomers have witnessed such an event on Jupiter.

In 2009, significant influence was witnessed by amateur astronomer Anthony Wesley in Australia. And after research work it was established that this was the result of an asteroid impact. Then in 2010, Wesley was again in the right place at the right time to capture another great influence, confirmed by amateur astronomer Christopher Guo in the Philippines.

But the biggest event of the cometary carnage in the history of mankind was captured with the help of the Hubble Space Telescope, when Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 struggled with the gravity of Jupiter in July 1994. But, ultimately, it fell apart, spicing up the atmosphere of Jupiter with huge chunks of icy debris.

These events provide an opportunity for planetologists to understand how often planets get strikes from asteroids and comets, in particular Jupiter. Some theories suggest that Jupiter is in some sense a defender of the Earth; its gravitational field also prevents the Earth from potential impacts from asteroids or comets. But other theories hint that Jupiter’s gravity might actually redirect some objects towards the Earth.

In this case, it seems, Jupiter turned out to be our protector, and amateur astronomers, once again, became the key to this discovery.

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