Another Flash Detected on Jupiter - Aug. 20, 2010

In an earlier note on this blog (see "Huge Flash of Light on Jupiter") I mentioned an event in Jupiter that occurred on June 3, where an Australian amateur astronomer, Anthony Wesley, detected a flash on the planet, which lasted roughly two and a half seconds (this was corroborated by other observations).

And now, only a month and a half later, a similar event has been reported. This one occurred on August 20, when there was another brief flash of light seen in Jupiter. This time it was a Japanese amateur astronomer, Masayuki Tachikawa, who detected the flash, which lasted only 1.5 seconds. The photo taken by another Japanese amateur astronomer, Aoki Kazuo, from this incident, confirming the initial observation, follows:

Image recorded by Aoki Kazuo of Tokyo, Japan on Aug. 20, 2010

A very short video of the event (lasting only a second and a half, where you can easily see the flash) can be accessed here (this is the same video that appears on the NASA site mentioned below).

You can access a full report about these impacts on Jupiter on the page: "Fireballs Light Up Jupiter", published by NASA. At the end of that page you will find links to other articles related to the same subject, one of which is the report about an earlier and more spectacular impact that occurred on July 19, 2009.

The collision that was detected last year was caused by an object much larger than the two objects that crashed into Jupiter this summer, because unlike them, in 2009 the impact did leave a mark on the planet which was detected at least several days later by other telescopes. NASA has the page: "What Hit Jupiter?" where you can access very detailed information about it. (It is important to note that on that occasion the Australian Anthony Wesley was again the first person who observed the effects of impact, but not the event itself, which went unnoticed in the world).

The best image of the aftermath left by the impact of 2009 was taken by the Hubble telescope. Although the Hubble was working on something else, it was decided that the event was too important not to be observed in depth by it. As expected, the reliable Hubble did not disappoint with its results, as can be seen below.

Hubble Space Telescope image of impact aftermath in Jupiter - July 23, 2009

An interesting point to me is that these three past observations have all been done thanks to the dedication and perseverance of amateur astronomers who follow Jupiter from their own backyards. Had it not been for them, the scientific community would have in all probability missed the opportunity to see them and study them. The good news is that the scientific community is now paying more attention to what is happening in the vicinity of our Earth (so to speak) rather than focusing on the most distant stars and galaxies, as has been the case in recent years. Of course, it's a phenomenal that scientists can study galaxies so far away from our own Milky Way that my mind can not really even begin to imagine those distances, but I think we must not forget our “next door” neighbour, Jupiter, which ultimately is likely to have more relevance to what is happening or may happen here on Earth.

The significance of knowing about the events in Jupiter is that the gathered data can help determine the number of meteoroids that are in our solar system. It is important to know this data so that there is a better idea of the frequency and size of collisions that occur not only in Jupiter but here. For example, before these events were observed, it was estimated that asteroids (of approximately 10 meters long) would crash here on average once every 10 years. Now astronomers need to recalculate these estimates, since it is known that Jupiter has collisions with objects of around the same size a few times each month (the objects that hit Jupiter these last two months were both about 10 meters).

Finally, it is interesting to kow that these impacts confirm the important and protective role that Jupiter has on Earth, as astronomers have previously reported. These collisions are a very clear and visual example of Jupiter's protective role for Earth, since some of the asteroids that might end in a direct course towards us, end up crashing there. To me, it is a fascinating coincidence that classical Greek mythology considered Zeus, i.e., Jupiter, as the king of the gods, because in the long run, we now know Jupiter does protect our world at a cosmic level.

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