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An Asteroid Smashed Into Jupiter And It Looked Kind Of Unimpressive

An impact of unthinkable speeds and colossal energies, represented by a sad little blip of grey pixels.

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Two amateur astronomers have captured the moment an asteroid crashed into Jupiter.

John McKeon / YouTube / Via

This was filmed by John McKeon, on a 28cm telescope in his home in Swords, Ireland. That bright flash at the top-right of the planet is the impact.

It's a huge rock, crashing into a giant planet at tens of thousands of miles an hour.

Gerrit Kernbauer / YouTube / Via

This one was filmed by Gerrit Kernbauer in Austria. Kernbauer wasn't sure if it was a real impact, or just a reflection in his telescope, until it was confirmed by McKeon's sighting.

We don't know exactly how big it is or how fast it was travelling, because you can't work out one without knowing the other.

Phil Plait, Slate's astronomy blogger, estimates that it was in the "tens of metres" range.

Jupiter's gravity is so powerful that objects tend to collide with it around five times faster than they do with Earth. Because of the way the physics works, that means they release 25 times as much energy in the collision – they're 25 times brighter.

So relatively small objects can make flashes that are visible even 665 million kilometres (413 million miles) away.

Asteroids and comets crash into Jupiter fairly often, because it's so big it sweeps up everything that comes near its orbit. The most famous was the Shoemaker-Levy comet in 1994.

Astronomie Heidelberg / YouTube / Via

This is an infra-red image of the impact. The bright flash at the bottom left is the comet's impact. (The bright bit to the right is Io, one of Jupiter's moons.)

They might not look like all that much, but when you remember that Jupiter is 70,000km across, that little flash looks a lot bigger.