Two amateur astronomers spotted space rock smashing into the surface of Jupiter while filming the largest planet in the solar system.
Video shows the flash of a large object, thought to be an asteroid or a comet smashing into the gas giant’s atmosphere on 17 March.
On March 17, Irish astronomy enthusiast John McKeon was making a time-lapse film of the transit of Jupiter’s moons Io and Ganymede on his 11-inch telescope when he saw a flash of light at the edge of the planet.
“The original purpose of the imaging session was to get this time-lapse, with a happy coincidence of the impact in the second, last capture of the night,” McKeon wrote in the description of his YouTube video.
Around the same time, amateur astronomer Gerrit Kernbauer was also filming Jupiter with his Skywatcher Newton 200 telescope. He didn’t even notice the flash at the time, but looking through his videos days later, he saw it and took notice. “My only explanation for this is an asteroid or comet that enters Jupiter’s high atmosphere and burned up [or] exploded very fast,” he said in a statement.
This has happened before. In July 1994 Comet Shoemaker–Levy 9 collided with Jupiter and broke up into many fragments, which also slammed into the planet, at speeds of 134,000 mph, according to NASA. These left scars on the planet’s face that were visible for weeks.
Jupiter is vulnerable to comets because it has such a large mass, which pulls in many objects. They then accelerate to enormous speeds and often break up in tremendous flashes of light.
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