Something Massive Just Collided With Jupiter


(SLA astronomie54/YouTube)

Jupiter is in a bad way. It's just hanging around as a gas giant, shepherding trojans and minding its own business, when all of a sudden, bam. A stray space rock knocked me over.

Actually, that isn't all that unusual for Jupiter. What's exceptional is when someone happens to be looking and photographing at precisely the right moment - as happened this month, when sky-watchers all around the world saw a blast in the planet's upper atmosphere.

Amateur astronomers Harald Paleske from Germany, who was filming the shadow of Io as it passed in front of Jupiter, and José Luis Pereira from Brazil, captured the dazzling flash of what seemed to be a Jupiter impact on September 13, 2021, at 22:39 UT.

Simone Galelli in Italy and Jean-Paul Arnould and Michel Jacquesson in France were among the others. The alleged impact was also filmed by Thibaut Humbert, Stéphane Barré, Alexis Desmougin, and Didier Walliang of the Société Lorraine d'Astronomie in France.

If confirmed, this will be Jupiter's seventh impact event since comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 collided with Jupiter in 1994, breaking apart owing to Jupiter's tidal forces and causing a series of collisions.

These were on the planet's far side, but a 2.2-meter telescope in Hawaii got the heat signatures of these impact sites as they orbited into view, and Hubble captured the scars left behind on the clouds.

It's impossible to say how often Jupiter is slammed by something huge or fast enough to cause an impact flash visible from Earth, although it's thought to happen between 20 to 60 times per year. Jupiter is massive, with a massive gravitational field that accelerates meteorites, resulting in far more explosive occurrences than we see on Earth.

However, for a variety of reasons, we don't witness them as frequently as they're anticipated to occur. The last time an impact event on Jupiter was captured was over two years ago.

It's a brief event, only a few seconds long, according to astronomer Jonti Horner of the University of Southern Queensland in Australia.

If you were looking through the telescope's eyepiece, it wouldn't be so obvious. These things go unreported and unobserved a lot of the time. The majority of them will take place on the other side of the globe. So there are a lot of factors fighting against these occurrences taking place.

Nonetheless, it appears that the pace at which we identify them is increasing. Astronomers who want to learn more about Jupiter's role as a cosmic vacuum cleaner that protects Earth from rocks that would otherwise come our way will profit greatly from this information.

Some research suggests that this may have been overblown, but knowing more about it can help us calculate the odds of life in other planetary systems with or without Jupiter-like gas giants.

The item that slammed Jupiter in 2019 turned out to be a stony-iron asteroid with a diameter of 12 to 16 metres (40 to 50 feet) and a mass of roughly 450 tonnes.

To find out what impacted Jupiter this time, we'll have to wait for an in-depth investigation of the flash and subsequent observations looking for an impact scar. However, with so much data to work with, we're eager to see what the astronomers discover.

Post a Comment