Two amateur Astronomers managed to record the moment something ‘unidentified’ and of unknown size, crashed into Jupiter releasing incredible amounts of energy.
According to reports from a number of sources, two amateur astronomers observed something, either a comet or asteroid, slamming into Jupiter. The videos are beyond incredible and are extremely rare.
If this ‘sighting’ is confirmed by space agencies around the world, it would be one of only a few recorded impacts on Jupiter in history.
So far, there are extremely little details about the impact, what we know so far is that there are several videos that have been posted online showing a ‘celestial body’ impacting the Gas Giant. Astronomers were able to observe a rapid brightening on the limb of Jupiter which is believed to have been caused by the impact.
In a post written on Reddit, astronomer John McKeon wrote: “Exact time was 00:18:45 UT [on March 17]. If anyone was shooting Jupiter at that time, I recommend looking back through your videos.”
From what the videos show, it was large and bright, and a significant burst shooting into space was recorded as the celestial object smashed into the upper cloud layer of the planet. According to astronomers, this indicates some sort of impact into the planet.
Gerrit Kernbauer, another astronomer wrote on YouTube: “Thinking back to Shoemaker-Levy 9, my only explanation for this is an asteroid or comet that enters Jupiter’s [sic] high atmosphere and burned up/explode very fast.”
What is seen in the video as merely a couple of pixels showing up is, in fact, an unusually large explosion on Jupiter. According to Phil Plait from Bad Astronomer, it’s very likely that the celestial body that impacted Jupiter was a smaller-sized comet or asteroid which managed to release a huge amount of energy by the speed of the collision.
Jupiter’s gravity causes celestial objects like asteroids or comets to accelerate rapidly towards the planet, this is why when astronomers are able to record an impact on video, it’s usually a violent one.
Interestingly, the asteroid of around 19 meters in diameter that fell in Russia in 2013 released an energy equivalent to 500,000 tons of TNT. On Jupiter, when similar objects crash, they do so at a speed 5 times faster than on Earth, and crashing against ‘Air’ at such speed is the equivalent of hitting a wall. The Unbearable pressure heats the atmosphere and rock causing the rock to shatter in pieces; each piece is heated and shatters. This incredible crash released enough energy so that two amateur astronomers were able to observe the impact at a distance of over 660 million kilometers away. However, this is not the first time we have seen Jupiter take a hit like that, as the last impact occurred in 2012.
However, Jupiter — the largest in our solar system — is hit by space rock on a regular period.
“Jupiter watchers have since seen a big impact site in 2009 subsequently imaged by Hubble, two bright-flash events in 2010, another bright flash event in 2012, and now this bright flash event in 2016,” Hammel told Mashable.
Hammel added that having both videos gives scientists confidence that Jupiter “was yet again the site of a cosmic collision.”