Jupiter got hit by a space rock and an amateur astronomer captured itreleasing a brief yet intense burst of energy. Jupiter frequently encounters such cosmic collisions, far more frequently than any other planet in our celestial neighborhood.
However, it is a rare occurrence for scientists to have the opportunity to observe such an event as it unfolds. Interestingly, the most recent collision was inadvertently documented by an amateur astronomer, adding an extraordinary twist to our understanding of these celestial happenings.
The collision was initially detected by the astronomical observation initiatives OASES and PONCOTS, both based in Okinawa. This discovery occurred at 1:45 am Japan Standard Time on August 29, equivalent to 4:45 pm UTC on August 28. In a social media post, they swiftly sounded the alarm and issued a message: "If you were observing Jupiter around the same time, please check the shooting data again, and if you find a flash, please report it on TL or DM this account!"
In a rapid response, the MASA Planetary Log shared some captivating imagery capturing the dramatic collision.
"When I woke up in the morning and opened X (Twitter), I saw information that a flash had been observed on the surface of Jupiter. That night, when I checked the video of the corresponding time, I saw a flash,” the person behind the MASA Planetary Log account told Space.com.
"I was very lucky to be photographing this phenomenon when it happened," they added.
View of Jupiter from space
There is presently no available data regarding the size of the celestial object that collided with Jupiter, although it evidently possessed sufficient mass to generate a remarkable display.
Jupiter finds itself frequently pummeled by celestial bodies due to its strategic location near the Solar System's asteroid belt and its immense gravitational influence, which acts like a cosmic magnet drawing passing objects towards it, much like a marble being drawn into a sink.
According to a study from 2013, Jupiter encounters impacts from objects ranging between 5 to 20 meters (16.5 feet to 65 feet) in diameter approximately 12 to 60 times each year. In contrast, objects larger than 100 meters (328 feet) are expected to collide with Jupiter every few years. This rate is about 10,000 times greater than the impact frequency of similar-sized objects on Earth.
Nonetheless, there's no need for sympathy towards Jupiter. Thanks to its colossal mass and formidable gravitational influence, this gas giant plays a crucial role in safeguarding the inner planets of the Solar System, including Earth, from wandering celestial objects. However, it is also possible that Jupiter occasionally diverts asteroids or comets towards us due to its gravitational sway.
Astronomers have been fortunate enough to witness the moments of impact on the gas giant on a few occasions. The inaugural occurrence took place back in 1994 when the comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 collided with Jupiter, marking a historic milestone as the first direct observation of two celestial bodies colliding within our Solar System.
Subsequently, up until 2021, there have been records of at least eight additional observations of impacts on Jupiter. This tally encompasses a particularly stunning collision event that unfolded in September 2021.