Jupiter Impact Video
Hm hm hm…..*poof*…………..is that all you got?
Here’s a video of yesterday’s impact on Jupiter by whatever object was unfortunate enough to have a run-in with the gigantic planet. This was made by Anthony Wesley, the Australian astronomer who spotted the event as it happened through his custom telescope setup.
Keep in mind that in this telescopic view Jupiter is rotated 180º…its south pole is up.
Against the gas giant the impact itself seems rather small…but with a diameter of nearly 89,000 miles (compared to Earth’s 7,926 miles) the flash from the impact could easily cover the continental United States! (Although some of the flash size is caused by the optics of the telescope.) But, lacking any solid surface, there’ll be no permanent damage…worst that’ll happen is the big planet gets some of its clouds stirred up for a bit, if whatever hit it even made it that far down.
This is only the third impact we’ve been able to witness on Jupiter, after the 1994 Shoemaker-Levy 9 comet impact and last year’s July 23 asteroid strike (see previous post.) In both of those instances the only remains were dark smears on the planet’s clouds, which dissipated over a few month’s time. It remains to be seen if this impact caused any blemishes on Jupiter’s atmosphere…many astronomers don’t think there will be any leftover signs of the event. But it’s a reminder that 1. the solar system is a very active place, where things can and do hit each other all the time, and 2. Jupiter takes the brunt of a lot of the impacts, being so big and and having such a powerful gravitational influence out there at the edge of the outer solar system. If it weren’t for Jupiter there’d be a lot more bits making it in towards the smaller planets – like ours – and whacking into things here. In fact, if the inner solar system weren’t “guarded” by Jupiter it’s possible that advanced life couldn’t have even evolved on Earth, not with a potentially much higher rate of devastating large-scale impacts interrupting things like, oh….I don’t know……living and breathing. What Jupiter eats for breakfast could annihilate life on Earth, basically. And even though this particular one probably wouldn’t have been a game-ender here, it definitely would have made a decent mess of things (or, as Phil Plait said, “suck mightily”.)
So remember…we may be able to thank Jupiter for cool stuff like plants and animals and being alive to contemplate it all in the first place.
Video credit: Anthony Wesley