As the largest planet in our solar system, Jupiter is not one to play with. That doesn’t stop wandering comets or asteroids from testing the gas giant, occasionally crashing into Jupiter due to its enormous size and immense gravitational pull.
An amateur astronomer caught a brief impact on Jupiter this week, appearing as a bright burst of light left behind by a small object.
MASA Planetary Log, an amateur astronomy account on X (formerly Twitter), posted a video of the impact that took place on August 28 at 12:45 p.m. ET (1:45 a.m. local Japan time on August 29). The event was confirmed by other amateur astronomers on X, who all reported seeing the bright flash.
The object that smashed into Jupiter is likely a small comet or an asteroid. Jupiter is no stranger to these impacts. As a certified big boy, the planet’s powerful gravitational pull and its close proximity to the main asteroid belt put it in harm’s way.
The last recorded impact took place in September 2021, in which the object was of similar size to this recent one. But perhaps the most famous impact event took place in 1994 when fragments of the Shoemaker-Levy 9 comet collided with Jupiter with the force of 300 million atomic bombs, according to NASA.
Luckily, Jupiter can shake these collisions off. If a similar sized object were to impact Earth, our planet would suffer a lot more damage.
Jupiter may actually play a role in protecting Earth, and the rest of the inner solar system planets, from these types of impacts. The planet either takes on objects that come near the solar system itself, or flings them further out away from Earth. The solar system’s gas giant certainly knows how to keep the peace in its cosmic neighborhood.