Named after the Roman king of the gods, Jupiter is the biggest planet in our solar system. The huge planet, with a radius of 43,440.7 miles, can fit over 1,300 earths inside of it. Our solar systems’ biggest planet is about a tenth of the size of the sun! All in all—Jupiter is massive. The planet’s colossal size sometimes makes us forget it can take a nasty hit. On August 7, photographer and amateur astronomer Ethan Chappel managed to capture just this.
According to Space, Jupiter got hit with an asteroid this past Wednesday, causing a flash to appear on its exterior. Chappel was originally stunned to capture it on camera, and was unsure if it was the real deal. Only after some research from other astronomers did Chappel’s photos get confirmed as an asteroid hit. In addition to capturing the blow, Chappel’s photos also showed the “bruise” the asteroid left on impact.
Here’s an animation that’s more representative of how fast the flash on #Jupiter occurred. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make this work without cutting out 6 frames for every 7. pic.twitter.com/POQynVOlA8
— Chappel Astro (@ChappelAstro) August 8, 2019
Turns out, Jupiter gets bumped and bruised pretty often. The planet’s intense gravity means space debris and asteroids get pulled towards its surface. Some astronomers believe that space debris smacks into Jupiter 1 to 5 times a month. Usually, the impact of these objects, ranging from 16.5 to 65 feet, leave rubble floating around the area. So, Jupiter doesn’t really bruise – it just has a lot of impact rubble around it.
Even though we have a planetary defense system to help us avoid getting slammed by a space rock, Jupiter doesn’t. The planet already carries some scars from previous impacts. The biggest dent Jupiter got was back in 1994 by the comet Shoemaker-Levy 9. The comet broke apart, scattering chunks of space rock into Jupiter’s surrounding clouds. For about 20 years, these fragments left dark scars within the clouds. Chappel’s asteroid discovery probably isn’t going to leave a mark, according to scientists. At most, Jupiter will want to nurse that sting with some ice and ibuprofen.
Featured Image: PBS/BBC