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An amateur astronomer has captured one of the brightest fireballs ever seen on Jupiter. Watch the rare video footage.

An amateur astronomer has captured one of the brightest fireballs ever seen on Jupiter.  Watch the rare video footage.

Jupiter is experiencing numerous impacts on the rest of the solar system, and new images show one of the greatest astronomers ever seen.

About 14 seconds into the video below, you can see a bright flash appear in Jupiter’s southern hemisphere. The flash is from an impact – probably an asteroid or comet hitting the planet. The video was captured by amateur astronomer Tadao Ohsugi in Japan in August. It’s a rare sight.

Fireballs can also occur on Earth. When meteoroids – small pieces of space rock – fall towards us, they sometimes pass through the atmosphere at such high speed that they burn up in mid-air.

This fireball on Jupiter, however, was far larger than anything that could safely hit Earth.

One of the brightest and largest Jupiter fireballs ever recorded

Ko Arimatsu, an astronomer at Kyoto University, confirmed to the New York Times that there were six reports of this flash on August 28. He said it was one of the brightest fireballs ever recorded on Jupiter, and only the second largest to be captured in a decade.

The last impact of this size, assessed by Arimatsu in 2021, had a force equivalent to around two megatons of TNT.

Before that, a giant impact in 2009 left behind a visible dark patch of debris on Jupiter’s surface, stretching twice the length of the United States.

Close-up of Jupiter's surface shows a long, dark purple patch on the pale orange surfaceClose-up of Jupiter's surface shows a long, dark purple patch on the pale orange surface

A dark purple spot on Jupiter shows where an object hit the planet in 2009.NASA, ESA and H. Hammel (Space Science Institute, Boulder, Colorado) and the Jupiter Impact team

Before that, in 1994, fragments of a comet successively crashed into Jupiter, creating an astonishing series of bright flashes.

gif shows a bright flash at lower left of Jupiter in a dark orange night viewgif shows a bright flash at lower left of Jupiter in a dark orange night view

A fragment of comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 impacts the night side of Jupiter in 1994.NASA/JPL

Arimatsu compared the fireball in the new video to the Tunguska event of 1908, when an asteroid exploded in the sky over Siberia. The resulting shockwave and heat blast destroyed 830 square miles of forest, according to NASA.

Even though whatever hit Jupiter was big, it was essentially devoured and dissolved by the gas giant. When debris hits Jupiter, “it melts and explodes,” Peter Vereš, an astronomer at the Harvard and Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, told Mashable.

If this object had hit the Earth, it would be a disaster. But Jupiter probably saved our planet from countless impacts, both Tunguska-sized and from the extinction of the dinosaurs.

Jupiter is the “vacuum cleaner of the solar system”

As the largest planet in our solar system, Jupiter has powerful gravity that attracts comets and asteroids.

An animated gif shows Bennu from all sides as he spins.  The gray diamond-shaped asteroid is covered in rocks.An animated gif shows Bennu from all sides as he spins.  The gray diamond-shaped asteroid is covered in rocks.

An asteroid called Bennu, captured by NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft.NASA Goddard Space Flight Center/University of Arizona

This is why many scientists believe that Jupiter is an essential ingredient in the recipe that makes Earth suitable for life. Especially in the early days of the solar system, when more and more space rocks were moving around, Jupiter’s gravity may have attracted many of the biggest threats.

The new video is “a glimpse into the violent processes that were occurring in the early days of our solar system,” Leigh Fletcher, a planetary scientist at the University of Leicester, told the Times.

Even in the centuries since those early days, Jupiter may have spared our little ocean world from many space rocks like the one that doomed the dinosaurs.

In fact, Jupiter’s appetite for asteroids and comets has earned it the nickname “the vacuum cleaner of the solar system,” according to NASA.

Arimatsu said these types of impacts happen more often than we can observe and the scientific community depends on amateur astronomers for reports like this.

Read the original article on Business Insider