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Amateur astronomers capture the moment Jupiter gets smacked by a space rock

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There's a lot to look at in the night sky, but sometimes amateur astronomers get particularly lucky. That was the case for two individuals — one in Austria, and one in Ireland — this month, who were both training their telescopes on Jupiter just as it was hit by another celestial body. The two videos show a bright flash on the upper right edge of the gas giant as something appears to slam against it, presumed to be either an asteroid or a small comet.

Austrian amateur astronomer Gerrit Kernbauer caught the impact on his 20 centimeter telescope on March 17th, but said he hesitated to process the videos he collected at the time, due to their low quality. Indeed, the flash visible on his video could have been a visual artifact, were it not also clearly present on the video taken by John McKeon at the same time.

In his YouTube upload description, Kernbauer says he was reminded of comet Shoemaker-Levy 9, which famously broke apart on its loop around our solar system before slamming into Jupiter in July 1994, affording astronomers a rare opportunity to observe exactly what happens during high-speed space collisions.