An explosive impact on Jupiter has been photographer. Picture: NASA
An explosive impact on Jupiter has been photographer. Picture: NASA

Jupiter just got slammed by something big

A space explosion so big it was seen from earth has been captured by an amateur astronomer.

The incredible scene unfolded on Jupiter and was believed to be caused by a meteor slamming into the giant planet's thick upper atmosphere.

Footage shows a bright flash before the space rock disappears without a trace.

Texas resident Ethan Chappell caught the moment by chance while on the lookout for Perseid meteors - a fast and bright variety of the space rock. But his telescope was trained on Jupiter with the camera running when event occurred.

Such impacts are not unusual, but it's rare to capture the moment. Mr Chappell told ScienceAlert: "After I checked the video and saw the flash, my mind started racing.

"I urgently felt the need to share it with people who would find the results useful."

He took to Twitter to share his discovery: "Imaged Jupiter tonight. Looks awfully like an impact flash in the SEB [southern equatorial belt]. Happened on 2019-08-07 at 4:07 UTC."

Mr Chappell later added in a separate tweet that there was "no visible sign of an impact scar."

The footage has excited the space world, with University of Queensland professional astronomer Dr Jonti Horner describing it as "totally breathtaking".

"To get a video like that, I've never seen anything like that before," Dr Horner told Science Alert.

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An explosive impact on Jupiter has been photographed. Picture: Twitter/@ChappelAstro
An explosive impact on Jupiter has been photographed. Picture: Twitter/@ChappelAstro

 

The event is known as a bolide impact, used to describe meteors that explode mid-air as they enter the atmosphere.

They're not uncommon, and happen on earth too. In fact, NASA has recorded 792 of these events since 1988.

But Jupiter's gravitational intensity is far stronger. The rate of large impacts on Jupiter was thought to be between 2,000 and 8,000 times the rate of impacts on our Blue Planet, according to a 1998 study. But despite this, very few have been caught on camera.

"It's a very fleeting event, it's a few seconds," Dr Horner told ScienceAlert.

"It wouldn't be so obvious, if you were looking through the eyepiece of the telescope. A lot of the time these things will go unnoticed and unobserved. Half of them will happen on the far side of the planet. So there's a lot of things working against seeing these events."


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