Jupiter was struck by a celestial object. In the video above, a small blip of light can be seen on the right side of the planet.
It may look insignificant, but the resulting explosion was unusually powerful. As Phil Plait of Bad Astronomy reports, the collision occurred on March 17, but confirmation of the event only emerged this week. An amateur Austrian astronomer used a 20-centimeter telescope to chronicle the unexpected event, but it could’ve been some kind of visual artifact. Plait explains:
“On average (and ignoring orbital velocity), an object will hit Jupiter with roughly five times the velocity it hits Earth, so the impact energy is 25 times as high. The asteroid that burned up over Chelyabinsk, Russia, in 2013 was 19 meters across, and it exploded with the energy of 500,000 tons of TNT. Now multiply that by 25, and you can see how it doesn’t take all that big a rock to hit Jupiter for us to be able to see it from Earth.
“At these huge speeds, hitting the atmosphere is like slamming into a wall. A lot of people get understandably confused how an asteroid can explode due to air, but the pressures involved as it rams through the atmosphere at these speeds are ridiculously huge.”