It's rare to capture footage of Jupiter collisions, but an amateur astronomer managed to record it.
Jupiter takes a lot of hits for the rest of the solar system, and new footage shows one of the biggest astronomers have ever seen.
About 14 seconds into the video below, you can see a bright flash appear in Jupiter's southern hemisphere. The flash is from an impact — likely an asteroid or comet slamming into the planet. The video was captured by amateur astronomer Tadao Ohsugi, in Japan, in August. It's a rare sight.
Fireballs can happen on Earth, too. When meteoroids — small chunks of space rock — fall toward us, they sometimes rip through the atmosphere at such high speeds that they burn up mid-air.
This fireball on Jupiter, however, was much, much bigger than anything that could safely strike Earth.
One of the brightest, biggest Jupiter fireballs ever recorded
Ko Arimatsu, an astronomer at Kyoto University, confirmed to The New York Times that there were six reports of this flash on August 28. He said it's one of the brightest fireballs ever recorded on Jupiter, and only the second big one to be captured in a decade.
The last impact of this size, which Arimatsu assessed in 2021, had a force equivalent to about two megatons of TNT.
Prior to that, a giant impact in 2009 left behind a visible dark spot of debris on Jupiter's surface, spanning twice the length of the US.
Before that, in 1994, fragments of a comet crashed into Jupiter in violent succession, creating a stunning series of bright flashes.
Arimatsu compared the fireball in the new video to the Tunguska event of 1908, when an asteroid exploded in the skies above Siberia. The resulting shock wave and blast of heat destroyed 830 square miles of forest, according to NASA.
Even though whatever hit Jupiter was big, it was basically eaten up and dissolved by the gas giant. When debris hits Jupiter, "it just melts and explodes," Peter Vereš, an astronomer at the Center for Astrophysics-Harvard & Smithsonian, told Mashable.
If this object had hit Earth, it would be disastrous. But Jupiter has probably saved our planet from countless impacts, both Tunguska-sized and dinosaur-extinction-sized.
Jupiter is the 'vacuum cleaner of the solar system'
As the largest planet in our solar system, by far, Jupiter has a powerful gravity that pulls in comets and asteroids.
That's why many scientists believe Jupiter is a critical ingredient in the recipe that makes Earth suitable for life. Especially in the earlier days of the solar system, when more space rocks were zipping around, Jupiter's gravity may have drawn in many of the biggest threats.
The new video is "a glimpse of the violent processes that were happening in the early days of our solar system," Leigh Fletcher, a planetary scientist at the University of Leicester, told the Times.
Even in the eons since those early days, Jupiter may have spared our little ocean world from many a space rock like the one that doomed the dinosaurs.
In fact, Jupiter's appetite for asteroids and comets has earned it the nickname "vacuum cleaner of the solar system," according to NASA.
Arimatsu said that these types of impacts are happening more often than we can observe, and that the scientific community depends on hobby astronomers for reports like this.
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