On September 10, Jupiter took another one for the team:
Is that cool or what? In case you missed it, the flash lasts just for a second or two on the left-hand side of the image near the limb. This video is a series of images captured by amateur astronomer George Hall of Dallas, Texas, who caught it on video. Here’s a still image from Hall’s video:
The fireball was most likely caused by an asteroid that probably was no larger than 10-meters in diameter. That’s not very big, but just consider how fast this must have been traveling as it slammed into Jupiter’s upper atmosphere and you have a very big explosion indeed!
If this story sounds familiar, consider that this is the sixth time such an event has been observed since the 1994 impacts of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9. Jupiter’s large mass captures astroids and comets into a stable orbit around Jupiter or, apparently rather frequently, pulls these objects in.
Not only does that give us some pretty amazing planetary fireworks, but we also have the benefit of not getting hit by said object. Jupiter is our Solar System’s bodyguard, taking one for the team every couple of years.
Thank you, Jupiter! Now don’t send anything our way kthanxbai.
Franck Marchis has more at his blog with a pretty good analysis. Worth checking out!