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Astronomers Capture Video of an Object Slamming Into Jupiter

Jupiter Defending?

Astronomers believe that Jupiter and its enormous gravitational influence may have a hand in protecting our home planet from rogue asteroids and comets—though it may just as often fling dangerous space debris our way. Either way, it definitely took one for the team recently, as astronomers caught video footage of a bright flash on the edge of Jupiter’s atmosphere caused by an impact from an interplanetary object.

So if we could see the impact, which appears fairly large in the video above, from Earth, that must have been some truly frightening space rock hanging out somewhere in the solar system, huh? Not necessarily, says “Bad Astronomer” Phil Plait. Jupiter’s mass—and, in turn, its gravity—is so much greater than Earth’s that an object hurtling towards it instead of us would accelerate at a much faster rate. On impact with the atmosphere, that extra speed would cause a much larger explosion than an object of the same size colliding with Earth’s atmosphere.

Still, it wouldn’t have been a small flying rock, either, so I’m glad it met its fate on Jupiter and not here. Whether or not we catch them on video, impacts like this are also fairly common on Jupiter. A few years ago, fragments of a comet collided with the planet and left brown scars across the lower part of it. Another dark spot indicating an impact was noticed in 1999.

Whether or not Jupiter keeps us 100 percent apocalypse-free forever, it’s certainly been taking some hits while we’ve remained relatively safe for the time being. For that, we enthusiastically appreciate its efforts.

Kel Mitchell shouting Jupiter on All That

(via Gizmodo, featured image via tonynetone on Flickr)

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