Jupiter got hit by something large enough to cause a flash visible to amateur astronomers on Earth.
Austrian Gerrit Kernbauer was filming Jupiter through his 7.8-inch (200mm) telescope on March 17, but he didn’t process the video until two days ago.
“The seeing was not the best, so i hesitated to process the Videos, Kernbauer wrote on his YouTube account.
“Nevertheless, 10 days later i looked through the Videos and i found this strange light spot that appeared for less than one second on the edge of the planetary disc.”
Look for yourself:
No one’s come forward with confirmation of what it was that Kernbauer captured, but he believes it was “an asteroid or comet”.
The impact looks enormous, leaving many to wonder what it would do to Earth.
But the man who first filmed a similar impact in 2010, Australian amateur astronomer Anthony Wesley, says the impact body was probably just “10m or 20m” – around the same size as the Chelyabinsk meteor which caused havoc over Russia in 2013.
It goes off with such a huge bang because Jupiter’s huge gravitational pull drags bits of comets and the like into it at five times the velocity Earth’s does, amplifying their energy by as much as 25 times.
Even more amazing is the fact that Kernbauer wasn’t the only one who saw it. In Dublin, John McKeon caught the same impact in exactly the same timeframe, all but confirming it wasn’t just a glitch.
McKeon’s video is slightly better, taken through an 11-inch (280mm) telescope:
Although actually seeing them is rare, impacts on Jupiter, due to its size and that gravitational pull, are more common than here on Earth.
In 1994, Jupiter was responsible for breaking up Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 and inflicting this string of strike scars on its surface:
And in 2009, Wesley became the first person to prove relatively small impacts on other planets could be observed from Earth when he found a new scar near Jupiter’s South Pole.
He followed it up less than a year later when he caught this bright flash believed to be an asteroid burning up as it entered Jupiter’s atmosphere:
Wesley says he is watching the planet for signs of an impact, but believes it is possible the object exploded “violently but too far above the cloud tops to leave any mark”.
“In this last case the burst occurred right on the limb of the planet, perhaps making it easier to see than if it had taken place near the middle of the disk because it was silhouetted against the dark background sky,” he said.
“So far there is no sign of any visible mark or debris.”