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Image credit: John McKeon

Amateur astronomers caught a Jupiter impact on camera

An asteroid or comet smacked into the gas giant, and there's telescope video to prove it.
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John McKeon

Jupiter gets hit by wayward celestial objects surprisingly often (about once per year), but you'd be forgiven if you didn't know it. Not all of them are visible, and professionals can only observe so much. However, the rise in readily accessible astronomy tech just helped detect one of these encounters. Amateur astronomers from Austria and Ireland have recorded videos showing that something, most likely an asteroid or comet, struck Jupiter on March 17th. The collision only lasted for a split second (blink and you'll miss it in the videos below) but it was ferocious -- even if the object was only a few hundred feet across, Jupiter's intense gravity guaranteed a high-velocity impact that would be visible from Earth.

It'd take much more data to explain what happened in detail. However, the very fact that it was caught on camera at all is telling. It shows that the combination of low-cost telescopes, video capture and easy online sharing is producing the kind of collaborative stargazing that scientists yearn for. There's an increasingly good chance that someone, somewhere is not only watching a given patch of sky, but can share their findings to confirm unusual events.

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