Astronomerlast month, which appeared as a bright spot nearly the size of Earth compared to the giant gas planet. New frame analysis reveals that the short flame is caused by a relatively small asteroid.
Ethan Chapel recorded a 1.5 second flash on August 7 using a telescope in his backyard in Texas. At its peak, it corresponded to the brightness of Jupiter Io's moon.
Ramanakumar Sankar and Csaba Palotai of the Florida Institute of Technology (FIT) analyzed data to estimate that lightning could be caused by a rocky asteroid impact between 39 and 52 feet (12 and 16 meters) in diameter or around the size of a large bar. The object probably had a mass of about 450 tons and released the equivalent of an explosion of 240 kilotons of TNT when it crashed in Jupiter's upper atmosphere about 50 miles (80 km) above the clouds on the planet.
That's about half the energy released from a carunleashed a shockwave that destroyed thousands of windows in the city of Chelyabinsk.
These new results were presented on Monday at a meeting of the Congress of the European Planetary Society in Geneva.
Ricardo Weso, a physicist at the University of the Basque Country in Spain, is one of the developers of an open source software package called DeTeCt specifically designed to identify impacts on Jupiter. Chapel used DeTeCt to analyze his video for the impact in August. Huezo said the impact appeared to be the second brightest of the six filmed in 2010.
"Most of these objects hit Jupiter without being noticed by Earth observers," Hesse said. "However, we now evaluate 20 to 60 similar impact sites with Jupiter each year."
If so, it's a scary lot of light shows that no one is witnessing, including a few that may be even brighter than the planet-sized flash we saw last month.