A Meteor Slammed Into Jupiter So Hard We Saw It From Earth

David Grossman

From Popular Mechanics

  • Ethan Chappel, an a space enthusiast, caught a meteor crashing into Jupiter live.

  • While such events are occur regularly, catching one as an amateur is pretty cool.

  • NASA is sending a spacecraft to investigate Jupiter-influenced asteroids in 2021.

An amateur astronomer captured what appears to have been a meteor exploding into Jupiter. Ethan Chappel, who captured the incident while taking photos for his Chappel Astro project, is awaiting further scientific confirmation of the collision.

"Today has felt completely unreal to me," Chappel wrote on Twitter. "Hoping someone else also recorded the impact to seal the deal. Unfortunately, it sounds like a few people missed it by a few minutes for various reasons."

Although Chappel, who runs Chappel Astro with George Chappel, is not a scientist, they've been capturing images of space for some time now. Beginning in 2013, the pair began capturing photographs of Jupiter. They've since expanded into other planets, and their rig has been upgraded as well. Chappel described the equipment used to capture a planet that far away with such detail.

Asteroids are common sights near the largest planet. It's gravitational pull is so large that the asteroids it pulls into its orbit have been given their own name: Jupiter Trojans. These are well known, with the first discovered in 1906. NASA explains that Trojans "share an orbit with a larger planet, but do not collide with it because they gather around two special places in the orbit." Trojans have tendency to fly out of orbit, a habit which is kept in line through the dual gravitational pulls of Jupiter and the Sun.

It's unclear if what struck Jupiter's SEB was a Trojan gone rogue or just another asteroid in the cosmos. A study from 2013 estimated that the King of Planets experience 12−60 small impacts per year, with larger asteroids hitting the planet every few years. While some believe that the planet acts as a sort of vacuum cleaner for asteroids in the solar system, other scientists warn that it could just as easily fling an asteroid towards the Earth.

NASA is planning on studying the Trojans in 2021. It's plan to do so has made for one of the Agency's complex flight plans in history.

Source: Space

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