Jupiter has always delivered mesmerizing images to the astronomers and, during the Perseid meteor night, which took place on August 7th, it delivered an interesting event to an unsuspecting amateur astronomer.
Ethan Chappel was out with his Celestron 8 telescope during that night, to watch the Perseid meteors but, as he ran the camera data through a program, he noticed a flash of light to the side of the planet. More precisely, at the South Equatorial Belt. The light became a small circle until it faded away completely.
It didn’t take Chappel long to understand that he most likely witnessed a possible impact, which is a very rare event for anyone to catch on camera.
What is even more interesting is that the size of the flash is about the size of the Earth. Thanks to this event, more people can understand just how big Jupiter actually is but that doesn’t necessarily mean that whatever crashed into Jupiter was actually the size of our planet. If anything, the flash might have simply been cause by the explosive energy.
One of the most famous recorded impacts of this kind we witnessed was the Come Shoemaker-Levy 9, which crashed into Jupiter back in 1994. Back then, Dr. Heidi B. Hammel and her team had used the Hubble Space Telescope to study how the planet responded to the event.
When such high-velocity collisions happen, something called ‘shock chemistry’ occurs, a massive release of energy, which crates chemical reactions that don’t normally occur by themselves in Jupiter’s atmosphere. With Shoemaker-Levy 9, the astronomers detected a number of materials such as hydrogen cyanide, which continued to remain observable in the Jupiterian atmosphere for many years following the impact.
Since the Shoemaker-Levy 9, there have been seven recorded impacts on Jupiter, including this one.