Jupiter has always been the target of impacts by comets and asteroids, but we don’t usually get to witness them. Our first opportunity was in the summer of 1994, when a train of fragments from the broken Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 crashed spectacularly, one-by-one, into the gas giant’s atmosphere, leaving Earth-sized scars in the clouds that could be seen by amateur astronomers. A similar scar appeared in 2009 and is attributed to an impact, even though the event itself was not observed. In 2010 and 2012, bright bolides (intense flashes of light) on Jupiter were recorded by amateurs. This has just happened again, but the flashes weren’t immediately noticed and have only recently come to light.
Here’s what we know so far, according to planetary scientist Ricardo Hueso of University of the Basque Country:
‘The impact happened on 17 March at 18:33 and was “discovered” around this Sunday by Gerrit Kernbauer from Austria. He posted the news and original video on youtube and in a german astro forum. The next day (this monday) a second observer, John Mc Keon from Ireland, found out the impact in a second video obtained the same day at similar time (there is a small discrepancy of 10 seconds that we will try to solve). We have the second video by John (video on top) which is the best of the two and below is the first video. Marc Delcroix has been following very closely this activity and is our main contact with Gerrit Kernbauer.’
‘The impact happened on the East limb and the region was unobservable for about 5.5 hours. Searches of debris on images on the next rotation in visible light and in methane absorption band images do not show any signature of debris. It would be very late in any case now (29 March or even yesterday when news appeared all around the astronomical internet) to launch any observations.’
Video by Gerrit Kernbauer (according to his YouTube channel): “On 17.03.2016 i was observing and filming Jupiter with my Skywatcher Newton 200/1000 Telescope. The seeing was not the best, so i hesitated to process the Videos. Nevertheless 10 days later i looked through the Videos and i found this strange light spot that appeared for less than one second on the edge of the planetary disc. Thinking back to Shoemaker-Levy 9, my only explanation for this is an asteroid or comet that enters Jupiters high atmosphere and burned up/explode very fast.”
Read Ricardo’s article, here.