If Jupiter had any dinosaurs—which is doubtful—they’d be nothing but ashes now. As The Byte reports, a comet recently crashed into the Milky Way’s biggest planet, exploding on contact. Jupiter, of course, Big Chungus that it is, took no damage from the encounter whatsoever.
Meteor Crash On Jupiter
An amateur astronomer from Japan captured the collision on video earlier this month. The comet glowed brightly as it plummeted toward Jupiter’s surface—and its demise—exploding in a ball of blinding light upon contact.
The brightness of the impact has led scientists to classify the comet as a bolide, a comet or meteor that “explodes in a bright terminal flash at it’s end, often with visible fragmentation.”
Jupiter’s Tractor Beam
Jupiter’s immense girth means that the planet has a strong gravitational pull. The powerful tractor beam that is Jupiter’s orbit has led to many similar crashes over the years.
This most recent incident wasn’t even a scratch when compared to some of the other scraps Jupiter has gotten into with other celestial objects.
But while this comet’s impact may not have left any visible scars on Jupiter’s surface, it still makes for a fun watch. The size disparity between the two objects gives off major David and Goliath energy or—to put it in Star Wars terms—it’s giving X-wing vs Death Star.
Unlike those examples, however, the underdog in this fight did not triumph in the end.
A super-bright comet dashing itself to pieces against Jupiter’s surface was a noteworthy enough occurrence that other astronomers soon took notice.
5″There was another impact on Jupiter last night!” noted planetary astronomer Heidi Hammel posted on X back on November 16. Hammel, who works directly with NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, was the first to publicly identify the comet as a bolide.
Hammel also compared the incident to similar happenings in both 1994 and 2009. The astronomer noted that while this recent comet was too small to leave an impact site on Jupiter’s surface, the objects from those two previous incidents did.
Earth’s Atmosphere As Well
Bolides don’t just attack Jupiter. A small handful of the celestial bodies, commonly referred to as fireballs, hurl themselves into Earth’s atmosphere every year. Luckily, these fireballs burn out quickly and usually crash into the ocean, leaving no trace for Scientists to study.
So far, within recorded history, Earth has been lucky. Unfortunately, our big sibling, Jupiter, can’t say the same. Even if this most recent crash did no lasting damage, other crashes like the ones mentioned above left permanent reminders of their short time on Jupiter.
Shoemaker-Levy 9 Comet
Take the aforementioned 1994 incident, for example. Jupiter found itself under attack from a barrage of comet chunks from Shoemaker-Levy 9.
The assault lasted several days and, according to NASA, left “huge, dark scars in the planet’s atmosphere and lofting superheated plumes into its stratosphere.” According to Hammel, the incident was a wake-up call for astronomers all over the world.
Hammel called the Shoemaker-Levy 9 comet slamming into Jupiter “a sort of punch in the gut.” during a 2019 interview. Hammel went on to say that the whole affair hammered home the importance of checking our own skies for these “fireballs” and making sure we have a plan to avoid potential impacts on Earth’s surface.