Watch something bash Jupiter, causing an explosion seen from Earth

Two amateur astronomers separately capture a continent-size blast emanating from the massive planet.

Space rocks aren't just something worth watching out for on Earth. They're even more likely to smash into the atmosphere of a far more massive planet like Jupiter. That's what appears to have happened earlier this month, according to two amateur astronomers who each captured and uploaded video to YouTube recently.

The below video from Gerrit Kernbauer of Austria shows a large blast, which astronomer Phil Plait describes as "very strong evidence for an actual impact."

Kernbauer says on YouTube that on March 17, he was filming Jupiter with a Skywatcher Newton 200/1000 telescope, but put off processing the videos because viewing conditions weren't ideal that night. "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," he writes.

Strengthening the case that this is a real cosmic collision and not some sort of lens flare or something else, is the fact that another observer, John McKeon of Ireland, recorded it at the same time on St. Patrick's Day, March 17. Very strong evidence of the luck of the Irish too, one might observe.

This isn't a first for Jupiter by any means. Part of the Shoemaker-Levy comet hit it in 1994, and something big also smacked the planet in 2009.

Just doing a very unscientific comparison of the pixels, the explosion from the apparent impact this month looks to have a diameter that is 4 percent of the 86,881-mile (about 139,820-kilometer) diameter of Jupiter itself in the frame. That means we could be looking at an explosion that is almost as wide as the contiguous United States. Check it out for yourself above.

Featured Video