Brazilian astronomer detects large space rock hitting Jupiter

A Brazilian astronomer detected an impact event on Jupiter and captured it on camera through his telescope. The detection is confirmed by at least seven more independent observations.

On the evening of Monday, September 13, Pereira was observing Jupiter through his 10-inch Newtonian telescope at home. The sky that evening was cloudy and not ideal for stargazing. At 22:39 Pereira saw a bright white spot near the giant planet’s equator. The flash disappeared in a matter of seconds, but Pereira had recorded it.

A rough estimate of the impactor’s size is around 100 metres.

Wondering if his years of observing Jupiter was going to pay off, Pereira analysed the video using software called DeTeCt, which is made to do exactly that — detect impacts on Jupiter using recorded flashes.

DeTeCt alerted Pereira that there was a high probability of the flashes be a result ofa collision.

To make sure that he had actually recorded a Jupiter impact, Pereira sent the video to the developer of DeTeCt — another planetary observer Marc Delcroix.

Interestingly, the flash was also seen by astronomers based in Italy, Germany and France, confirming that the flash was not caused by Pereira’s telescope or some other observational error.

According to the European Space Agency, despite the fact that a lot of information is not available yet, the flash indicates that the impacting object is likely to be large or fast, or both.

The impact, when officially confirmed, will be the ninth recorded impact to Jupiter, only the first of which was recorded by a professional astronomer in 1994. The rest of the observations were made by amateur astronomers.

Jupiter is bombarded by asteroids more than any other solar system planet, owing to its biggest size.

Interestingly, Jupiter is known as the solar system’s vacuum cleaner. Lacking a surface like Earth, objects falling to Jupiter do not hit thesurface, but go as far as they can in the giant gas cloud’s gravity well. This interaction generates observable phenomena such as the one recorded.