A space rock recently hit Jupiter, the solar system's most giant planet. The incident resulted in to burst of light that was powerful enough scientists on Earth could see.
The impact happened on October 15 at 9:24 a.m. EDT (10:24 p.m. local time), and experts at Kyoto University in Japan were the first to notice it.
The researchers used the PONCOTS observation system, part of the Organized Autotelescopes for Serendipitous Event Survey (OASES).
Still, pictures and video footage of the impact have been published, showing how a white spot momentarily shines on Jupiter's striped landscape before gradually fading away.
10月15日22:24(JST)に発生した、木星表面へ小天体が衝突した瞬間の閃光について、PONCOTS観測システムを用いて可視500-750nm及び889nmメタンバンドによる同時観測に史上初めて成功しました。２色同時に得られた閃光の画像をここに初公開いたします。 pic.twitter.com/Hs2wJp0s5F— 京大OASES project (@OASES_miyako) October 17, 2021
Japanese Skywatchers Saw Another Space Rock Hitting Jupiter
Netizens contacted many astronomers who happened to have a telescope focused on Jupiter at the exact moment to confirm that what they had seen was genuine and not a telescope malfunction. They did, thankfully.
A team headed by Ko Arimatsu, an astronomer at Kyoto University in Japan involved in the Organized Autotelescopes for Serendipitous Event Survey (OASES) project, verified the findings.
That observation comprised two kinds of light, visible and infrared, giving Jupiter an unsettling pink glow, according to a tweet from the team.
Smaller objects, such as asteroids that litter the solar system may readily be sucked into Jupiter's thick, turbulent atmosphere due to the planet's massive gravitational attraction.
Newsweek said the scientist believes a tiny asteroid or a comet fragment slamming into the gas giant's atmosphere caused the impact. Despite the brilliance of the flare, early estimates indicate that the asteroid was just a few to tens of meters in diameter.
Sky & Telescope said the October 15 flash occurred at the planet's North Temperate Belt's southern border in the planet's North Tropical Zone.
Observers aren't sure whether the collision left a debris field that scientists can track; the September flash didn't. Observability depends on many variables, including the object's size and the impact's position.
Is Jupiter a Battered Planet?
It's not uncommon for space rocks to hit Jupiter. Arimatsu told Newsweek that the gas giant is believed to be hit between 10 and 60 times each year. But it's far more uncommon for scientists to notice.
In any event, this isn't the first time scientists have seen a bright flash on the gas giant. Large fragments of the comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 collided with Jupiter over many days in 1994, causing brilliant flashes and black scars on the planet's clouds.
Heidi Hammel, who saw the comet using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, said in a NASA article that the strikes underscored the need to understand the possibility for impacts on Earth.
The Planetary Society said Jupiter played a role in shielding Earth from space rocks because its massive gravitational pull pulls them, preventing them from colliding with our planet.
A study, "Small Impacts on the Giant Planet Jupiter," claimed that objects with a diameter of at least 45 meters strike Jupiter every few months on average. But observational limitations imply that even the most comprehensive monitoring program may only detect one or two impacts each year.
A similar incident occurred earlier this year, which an amateur astronomer captured. The discovery was dubbed a "collision flash event candidate" by the Kyoto University researchers.
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