A photographer recently had the luck of filming an incredible space event in real-time (give or take a few light minutes), while his camera and telescope equipment were trained on Jupiter.
The once-in-a-lifetime video capture shows what is most likely a meteor exploding into Jupiter's atmosphere.
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Extremely rare footage
This week, on August 7, Ethan Chappel of Chappel Astro captured the incredible footage, which he subsequently released on Twitter:
Imaged Jupiter tonight. Looks awfully like an impact flash in the SEB. Happened on 2019-08-07 at 4:07 UTC. pic.twitter.com/KSis9RZrgP— Chappel Astro (@ChappelAstro) August 7, 2019
Chappel also released a single frame output image:
Single frame and DeTeCt output image of the potential impact on #Jupiter. pic.twitter.com/kjZZgOYlQf— Chappel Astro (@ChappelAstro) August 7, 2019
As ScienceAlert reports, bolide impacts on Jupiter aren't a rare event. Bolides - meteors that explode on atmospheric entry - are fairly common on Earth, and Jupiter has a much stronger gravitational pull due to its mass - effectively making it Earth's protector. The film capture is, nevertheless, impressive.
Furthering science with a breathtaking video
"To get a video like that, I've never seen anything like that before," astronomer Jonti Horner from the University of Southern Queensland in Australia told ScienceAlert. "That's just totally breathtaking."
Horner also explained how, despite the fact that bolides on Jupiter aren't rare, catching it on camera was extremely lucky:
"It wouldn't be so obvious if you were looking through the eyepiece of the telescope. A lot of the time these things will go unnoticed and unobserved. Half of them will happen on the far side of the planet. So there's a lot of things working against seeing these events," he said.
Two views of #Jupiter early on 7 August 2019 with the flash I recorded. Left shows the moment of impact at 4:07 UTC. Right is an RGB image. pic.twitter.com/xPmS8MMFhc— Chappel Astro (@ChappelAstro) August 8, 2019
Chappel, meanwhile, detailed his thought process after the discovery to ScienceAlert:
"After I checked the video and saw the flash, my mind started racing! I urgently felt the need to share it with people who would find the results useful."
And useful it may well be. Horner says that scientists can compare the impact with data of bolides on Earth to gain insight into the way these meteors break up in different atmospheres. Not bad for someone with a commercially available telescope setup.