Can an asteroid strike Earth? One just crashed into planet Jupiter
An asteroid, or a similar object, has hit Jupiter and it puts in perspective how vulnerable Earth is to such a calamity.
It is generally believed that though asteroids have a great potential for harm, they are unlikely to crash into Earth. Not in our lifetimes at least. Well, so far so good, but something just crashed into planet Jupiter, as was recorded by an amateur astronomer. And what is more, it comes just years after Shoemaker-Levy 9 crashed into Jupiter. So, where does that put Earth vis a vis asteroids? In harm's way, surely.
Asteroids are extremely dangerous and they are widely credited with having sent the fearsome dinosaurs to extinction. They have the potential to do that to humans too. Or perhaps, cause such a great human tragedy that has never been seen before, except perhaps, when the US dropped atom bombs on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during the Second World War.
Now, Jupiter is bigger, much bigger than Earth. Considering it is, what can be termed as, a failed star, Jupiter's diameter is 139,820 km. The diameter of the Earth is just 12,742 km. That means Jupiter will present a bigger target and will attract a lot of asteroids towards itself. It is also closer to the asteroid belt.
However, in a big surprise, an amateur observer Jose Luis Pereira in Brazil managed to catch a flash of light on planet Jupiter on Monday night (September 13). This was an asteroid, or similar object, striking Jupiter's atmosphere. None of the other space agencies like NASA managed to catch this important event and it came as a surprise to them.
Speaking to space.com, Pereira, who had set up his camera equipment to capture photos and videos of Jupiter from Sao Paulo, said, "To my surprise, in the first video I noticed a different glow on the planet." It was later confirmed that he had actually recorded a video of an actual impact of an object on Jupiter.
Astronomers say that Jupiter gets hit by asteroids and other objects fairly frequently. It is a gaseous giant and therefore, what happens on impact inside the planet is not clear. The most famous impact was when Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9, which had broken into many parts, hit Jupiter in July, 1994. However, that was not a one-off event, as Jupiter got hit in July, 2009 too, some 15 years later.
Figuring from there, the space object that caught astronomers by surprise can do the same here on Earth. Why? Just a few days ago, NASA's asteroid expert said that the space agency does not know about all the asteroids. In fact, it has knowledge of 90% of the big asteroids and very little information on smaller ones.
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