Poor Jupiter took a beating this March! Astronomer John McKeon was photographing the red giant to make a time-lapse video of the planet’s moons Io and Ganymede when he noticed something out of the ordinary. A mysterious spot of light appeared on the edge of the planet for just a brief moment before vanishing again. Scientists think the flash was created by a comet or asteroid (more likely an asteroid because there are more of them zooming around our solar system) burning up in Jupiter’s atmosphere. And this is not the first time Jupiter has been hit; in fact, many impacts have been observed over the last 20 years. The biggest of these occurred in 1994 when fragments from the Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 left marks across the planet’s surface that were so large they were visible even with standard telescopes. Part of the reason that Jupiter gets hit so much is simply because of its size; it’s so big that its gravitational pull grabs passing objects and draws them in. I am glad that Jupiter is the one getting hit and not Earth, but it does make me wonder about how much mysterious stuff is out there traveling through our solar system!
Want to learn more? Visit http://www.space.com/32411-jupiter-hit-by-comet-asteroid-video.html