An amateur astronomer discovered something spectacular with a backyard telescope Wednesday when he recorded a bright flash on the surface of Jupiter. The biggest planet within the solar system routinely delivers stunning footage, like those snapped by NASA’s Juno spacecraft, however, the unexpected flash has astronomers excited at the possibility of a meteor impact.
Ethan Chappel pointed his telescope on the large gas planet at just the best time, catching the white spot noticed on the lower left facet of the planet within the above images on Aug. 7.
While it has but to be confirmed by a second observer, it seems like a large asteroid crashing into the gas giant planet. The flash is temporary and quickly fades away, boosting the idea that it was likely attributable to a collision.
SL9 is Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9, which famously crashed Jupiter in 1994. Hammel led the crew that used the Hubble Space Telescope to study the impact and how the planet’s gassy atmosphere responded.
Something remarkable to think about is that the apparent measurement of the flash is roughly the size of Earth, which is small next to the enormous gas planet. For reference, about three Earth could fit inside Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, which can also be visible.
Of course, this does not imply that whatever hit Jupiter was the size of a planet, just that the collision appears to have launched lots of explosive vitality. Telescope’s and Sky Bob King says, if confirmed, this could be the seventh recorded impression of Jupiter since Shoemaker-Levy.