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Amateur astronomers capture breathtaking moment as a comet collides with Jupiter

A large space object believed to be either a comet or an asteroid collided with Jupiter's surface and these astronomers caught it on camera.

Amateur astronomers capture breathtaking moment as a comet collides with Jupiter
Representative Cover Image Source: Pexels | T Keawkanok

Jupiter, the fifth planet from the Sun and the largest in our solar system, recently got "hit" by a small celestial body. An account affiliated with the Organized Autotelescopes for Serendipitous Event Survey (OASES) project and Planetary Observation Camera for Optical Transient Surveys (PONCOTS) system shared a sudden observation in Jupiter’s atmosphere that took place at 1:45 a.m. Japan Standard Time on August 29, according to Space. The amateur astronomy account called MASA Planetary Log (@MASA_06R) later shared a stunning video of the gas giant and a brief burst of light coming from it. Chinese amateur astronomer in the city of Zhengzhou, Henan province, also spotted the flash in the same spot on Jupiter’s atmosphere. 


“When I woke up in the morning and opened X (Twitter), I saw information that a flash had been observed on the surface of Jupiter. That night, when I checked the video of the corresponding time, I saw a flash,” MASA Planetary Log said. “I was very lucky to be photographing this phenomenon when it happened.” It is believed that either a comet or an asteroid flew into the planet. The OASES Twitter account (@OASES_miyako) was able to share a high-resolution image of the giant planet at the time of the impact thanks to the data provided by amateur space enthusiasts. The large space object is believed to be either a comet or an asteroid that collided with Jupiter's surface.


NASA describes "Asteroids, sometimes called minor planets, are rocky remnants left over from the early formation of our solar system about 4.6 billion years ago." Most of them are irregularly shaped, while some are nearly spherical, and often pitted or cratered. Comets have been described as "frozen leftovers from the formation of the solar system composed of dust, rock and ice." As they "orbit closer to the Sun, they heat up and spew gases and dust into a glowing head that can be larger than a planet," NASA notes.


It's not an uncommon occurrence that Jupiter experiences cosmic collisions because of its powerful gravitational pull. In fact, the large planet helps play a big role in protecting the inner solar system from asteroids and comets. Jupiter does this by absorbing impacts or flinging potentially dangerous objects further out into the solar system. As it often attracts comets and asteroids in this way, it keeps Earth protected in the process. However, some experts believe it's also more complicated than that. In 2009, Hal Levison, an astronomer at the Southwest Research Institute, in Boulder, Colorado said that whether the planet was menace or protector depended on where the comets came from, according to The New York Times.

Representational Cover Image Source: Pexels | @T Keawkanok
Representational Cover Image Source: Pexels | T Keawkanok

Either way, giant planets like Saturn and Jupiter are believed to have likely helped stabilize the solar system. "If you don't have giant planets in your system, you have a very, very different planetary system," Tom Barclay, of NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California explained at the 227th meeting of the American Astronomical Society. "If you have giant planets, your last giant impact happens somewhere between 10 and 100 million years [after planet formation], which is pretty fine—it's like what happened on Earth," Barclay said. "If you don't have giant planets, the last giant impact can happen hundreds [of millions] to billions of years in. This really is a risk to habitability."

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