According to NASA researchers, the Juno probe recorded a short, violent flash in Jupiter’s atmosphere. The event caught the attention of scientists because the phenomenon does not resemble the aurora borealis, whose observations are the main goal of the expedition. Scientists recently concluded that the glow may have been caused by a meteorite.
This phenomenon was observed in April 2020 by Ultraviolet Spectrophotometer (UVS). Its main task is to observe the aurora borealis of Jupiter and search for various gases, including hydrogen. When examining the flash, the scientists took into account its length and the spectrum observed by ultraviolet radiation. They said in a statement issued on the first of March that the event was the result of the appearance of a meteorite in the atmosphere of the planet.
The mission team estimated that a meteorite moving through Jupiter’s upper atmosphere could have a mass of 250 to up to five thousand kilograms.
This was the only time in 2020 that scientists noticed space rocks in Jupiter’s atmosphere. In September and October 2021, two different asteroids were observed heading towards the planet with a difference of only one month.
Occasionally, a meteorite is spotted in Jupiter’s atmosphere by instruments on Earth. This was the case with the above notes. Thanks to images taken by sky watchers from Japan, scientists were able to confirm that the April flash was caused by a meteorite.
“These fireballs are very rare, and it is very difficult to observe them,” said Ricardo Hueso, an astronomer at the University of the Basque Country in Spain, who also made the observations. – this year [2021 – przyp. red.] It was unique because we usually only discover one such event every two years or so.
The Juno space probe has been observing the planet since 2016. Since then, new data have revealed the atmosphere, weather, evolution and composition of Jupiter. However, it is not the first spacecraft to observe meteors up close in Jupiter’s atmosphere. Previously, it was recorded by the Galileo probes (from 1995 to 2003) and two Voyagers, who in the 1970s began their journey to the farthest point in space.
The Juno mission team concluded that “each new observation helps estimate the total number of meteorite passages, an important component of understanding this planet.”
Main image source: NASA / JPL-Caltech / SwRI / MSSS |
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