Astronomers and avid space observers have recently caught a glimpse of something stunning indeed, as they recorded a brief bright flash penetrating the surface of Jupiter and triggering excitement over a possible meteor impact that occurred on Wednesday, 7 August.
Budding stargazer from Texas Ethan Chappel managed to capture a white spot on the lower left side of the Solar System’s famous gas giant, having pointed the lens of his telescope at the right time and in the right direction while he was searching for a shower of meteors known as Perseids in the night sky.
The elusive flash, which was later confirmed by a second observer, Dr Heidi B. Hammel, looks like a large asteroid crashing into the most massive planet in our solar system.
Another impact on Jupiter today (2019-08-07 at 04:07 UTC)! A bolide (meteor) and not likely to leave dark debris like SL9 did 25 years ago. Congrats to Ethan Chappel (@ChappelAstro) on this discovery and H/T to Damian Peach (@peachastro) for the report https://t.co/lj38ncBZuI— Dr Heidi B. Hammel (@hbhammel) August 7, 2019
"Another impact on Jupiter today!" planetary astronomer Dr Heidi B. Hammel wrote on Twitter. "A bolide (meteor) and not likely to leave dark debris like SL9 did 25 years ago", the astronomer tweeted at the time, bringing up the well-documented Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9, commonly referred to as SL9, which impacted Jupiter back in 1994, prompting Hammel to lead the team to study the event and the planet’s response using the Hubble Space Telescope.
The newly registered flash is certainly a remarkable sight due to its size equalling that of planet Earth, which has only 1/11th the diameter and 1/300th the mass of Jupiter. In light of the apparent huge mass of explosive energy released during the collision, this would make the seventh recorded impact on Jupiter since Shoemaker-Levy, the website Sky and Telescope's Bob King alleged.
The news comes amid a recent scare caused by reports of hordes of mammoth space rocks travelling in Earth’s direction and fuelling scientific interest as well as concerns over the so-called “potentially hazardous” objects.