See Jupiter Get Hit By A Mystery Object

Video highlights from Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey

Asteroid, comet or something else?

Now this is something you don’t see every day.

Amateur astronomers have captured extraordinary footage of an unknown object slamming into Jupiter.

The video, taken 968 million kilometres away from Jupiter, shows a bright flash of light appearing from the right side of the frame that crashes into the side of the planet. 

While the original footage was taken in Austria on 17 March, it wasn’t until a second video taken in Ireland emerged that scientists could be sure it wasn’t a video glitch or trick of light.

Thanks to Jupiter’s gravity, the energy of the impact would have been about 25 times higher than on Earth, explaining why people on Earth were able to spot such a small object.

“Looking over these observations, it seems that on average Jupiter gets hit by something big enough to see from Earth about once per year. Mind you, we miss ones that happen on the far side of the planet, or when Jupiter is too close to the Sun to be observed,” astronomer Phil Plait told Slate.

“Jupiter has always been getting hit, but the uptick in detections is because our technology is getting better and less expensive.”

The most massive planet in our solar system, with four planet-size moons and many smaller satellites, Jupiter forms a kind of miniature solar system. Jupiter resembles a star in composition. In fact, if it had been about eighty times more massive, it would have become a star rather than a planet.

In 1610, using his primitive telescope, astronomer Galileo Galilei saw four small "stars" near Jupiter. He had discovered Jupiter's four largest moons, now called Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto. Collectively, these four moons are known today as the Galilean satellites.

Galileo would be astonished at what we have learned about Jupiter and its moons in the last 30 years. Io is the most volcanically active body in our solar system. Ganymede is the largest planetary moon and is the only moon in the solar system known to have its own magnetic field.

In 2003 alone, astronomers discovered 23 new moons orbiting the giant planet. The numerous small outer moons may be asteroids captured by the giant planet's gravity.

Jupiter's appearance is a tapestry of beautiful colours and atmospheric features. Most visible clouds are composed of ammonia. Water exists deep below and can sometimes be seen through clear spots in the clouds.

The planet's "stripes" are dark belts and light zones created by strong east-west winds in Jupiter's upper atmosphere. Within these belts and zones are storm systems that have raged for years. The Great Red Spot, a giant spinning storm, has been observed for more than 300 years.

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