Scientists stumble on a meteor smashing into Jupiter – CNET


This color-enhanced picture reveals a NASA Juno view of Jupiter in late 2020.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS; picture processing by Tanya Oleksuik

Researchers utilizing NASA’s Juno spacecraft to take a look at Jupiter’s auroras say they bought fortunate final spring and caught a really shiny meteoroid explosion within the course of.

Such impacts aren’t uncommon for Jupiter, because it’s the biggest planet within the photo voltaic system with some severely highly effective gravity in addition.

“Nevertheless, they are so short-lived that it’s comparatively uncommon to see them,” the Southwest Research Institute’s Rohini Giles mentioned in a press release. “You need to be fortunate to be pointing a telescope at Jupiter at precisely the fitting time.”

Giles is lead creator of a paper printed this month in Geophysical Analysis Letters.

Newbie astronomers have used Earth-based telescopes to identify six impacts on the enormous planet up to now decade, together with a pretty dramatic one in 2019. However Giles and colleagues had a definite benefit utilizing Juno hanging out by Jupiter itself.

“This shiny flash stood out within the information, because it had very totally different spectral traits than the UV emissions from Jupiter’s auroras,” Giles defined.


SwRI scientists studied the realm imaged by Juno’s UVS instrument on April 10, 2020, and decided that a big meteoroid had exploded in a shiny fireball in Jupiter’s higher environment. The united statesswath features a section of Jupiter’s northern auroral oval, showing purely in inexperienced, representing hydrogen emissions. In distinction, the brilliant spot (see enlargement) seems principally yellow, indicating vital emissions at longer wavelengths.


By trying on the brightness and different information from the flash, the staff estimates it got here from an area rock with a mass of between 550 and three,300 kilos (249 to 1,497 kilograms) impacting the jovian environment at an altitude about 140 miles (225 kilometers) above the highest of Jupiter’s clouds.

Issues slamming into Jupiter could be a fairly large deal. The largest smackdown ever seen on the planet was the influence from Comet Shoemaker Levy 9 in 1994, which was broadly studied.

“Impacts from asteroids and comets can have a vital influence on the planet’s stratospheric chemistry — 15 years after the influence, comet Shoemaker Levy 9 was nonetheless chargeable for 95 p.c of the stratospheric water on Jupiter,” Giles mentioned. “Persevering with to observe impacts and estimating the general influence charges is subsequently an vital component of understanding the planet’s composition.”

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