Two amateur astronomers in different countries captured space images that astronomers say depicts an amazing cosmic event: something basically crashing into the planet Jupiter.
Experts say it wasn't aliens, alas, but space debris–either an asteroid or a comet. It's cool but not too terribly surprising, because Jupiter is the largest planet in our solar system, with the most mass.
"Two amateur videos shot early on March 17th show a brief but bright flash on the edge of Jupiter's disc," reports Sky and Telescope.
Amateur astronomers and pro planet watchers around the world are now trying to figure out exactly what these cosmic images mean. Both show a brief flash of light right at the edge of Jupiter's disk, near the boundary of the planet's bright Equatorial Zone and its North Equatorial Belt.
From Sky and Telescope's report:
Austrian amateur Gerrit Kernbauer posted the first video of the event. "I was observing and filming Jupiter with my Skywatcher Newton 200/1000 Telescope [an 8-inch f/5 reflector]," he recalls. "The seeing was not the best, so I hesitated to process the videos. Nevertheless, 10 days later I looked through the videos and I found this strange light spot that appeared for less than one second on the edge of the planetary disc." Kernbauer calculates the time of the flash as 00:18:33 Universal Time on the 17th.
Two days later, Irish observer John McKeon posted his own record of the flash. McKeon was using an 11-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope and ASI120MM camera. Crucially, he also used a near-infrared filter to reduce the planet's brightness. He was making a 3½-hour-long time-lapse video of Jupiter and its moons, "with a happy coincidence of the impact in the second-to-last capture of the night." McKeon pegs the flash's time at 00:17:45 UT, a 48-second difference from Kernbauer's estimate.
The videos by Gerrit Kernbauer (Austria) and John McKeon (Ireland) are below.