Amateur astronomer Tadao Ohsugi captured a giant fireball blasting at Jupiter’s southern hemisphere. Despite Jupiter being “the vacuum cleaner of the Solar System”, this isn’t an everyday sight. In fact, according to astronomers, this is the second biggest one to be captured in a decade. thankfully, Ohsugi got it in a timelapse, so we can see the massive blast, too.
Ohsugi captured the blast from Japan in August 2023. According to Insider, it results from an impact — likely from an asteroid or comet. As you might have seen, fireballs occur on Earth, too. It happens when meteoroids rip through the atmosphere at high speeds. Some cases of fireballs have been caught on camera, too. However, this massive fireball that Jupiter would cause a significant damage if it had hit the Earth.
In fact, Jupiter has likely saved our planet from countless impacts. It’s the giant of our solar system, and its strong gravity pulls in comets and asteroids. That’s one big reason why many scientists think Jupiter plays a key role in making Earth a livable place. Particularly in the early days of the solar system, when space was shooting range with rocks zipping around everywhere, Jupiter’s strong gravity likely swept up many of the potentially dangerous ones.
Previously observed massive fireballs on Jupiter
Ko Arimatsu, an astronomer at Kyoto University, confirmed that Ohsugi’s video was legit. He told The New York Times that there were six reports of this flash on the same date, August 28. It’s “one of the brightest fireballs ever recorded on Jupiter” as well as “only the second [biggest] one to be captured in a decade.” Arimatsu spotted an impact of this size in 2021, and he says that it had a force equivalent to about two megatons of TNT. To give a bit of perspective, the bomb dropped on Hiroshima during World War II was approximately 15 kilotons, or 0.015 megatons.
Before that, there was a massive impact in 2009. It left behind a visible dark spot of debris on Jupiter’s surface, twice as long as the U.S. And back in 1994, comet fragments hit Jupiter so violently that they created a series of bright flashes.
According to Leigh Fletcher, a planetary scientist at the University of Leicester Ohsugi’s video is “a glimpse of the violent processes that were happening in the early days of our solar system.” Ko Arimatsu added that impacts like this occur “more often than we can observe,” and that “the scientific community depends on hobby astronomers for reports like this.”