Amateur astronomer captures video of explosion as object crashes into Jupiter
A man from Brazil had the kind of magic moment most amateur astronomers can only dream of: He filmed an unpredicted astronomical event.
Astrophotographer José Luis Pereira of São Paulo was taking video and photos of his favorite planet, Jupiter, when on Monday night he captured on video a bright white flash: An object — likely a giant rock — crashing into the colorful gas giant's atmosphere.
The weather was cloudy, so he didn’t expect to get much on film that night, Pereira said in a statement sent to the Redding Record Searchlight. Only Jupiter was visible. “I was thinking about disassembling the (telescope and cameras, but) decided to wait.”
The crash happened at 11:39 p.m. in the South American country, but Pereira didn’t realize he’d filmed it until the next morning when he perused his video recording.
“For me, it was a moment of great emotion, as I have been looking for a record of this event for many years,” he said.
Jupiter is extremely bright this summer. For many August and September nights it was the only night sky object visible besides the moon through wildfire smoke and haze hovering over Northern California.
Pereira, whose Facebook page is crammed with high-resolution photos of the solar systems largest planet, plans to post more planetary pictures and videos this month.
“I am an assiduous planetary observer,” Pereira said. “When the planets Jupiter, Saturn and Mars are in opposition, I try to make images — every possible night (when skies are clear).”
You can see Jupiter, too
Even at an average distance of 484 million miles from the sun — 378 million miles from Earth, massive Jupiter can be seen with the naked eye on clear nights this week.
After sundown, look southeast — then slightly more to the east — to watch it "rise" and "fly" over us into the southwest as the Earth rotates, accompanied by a smaller spot, Saturn.
Don't let that bright little dot fool you. Jupiter is more than twice the size of all the other planets combined.
"If Earth were the size of a nickel, Jupiter would be about as big as a basketball," according to NASA.
Jessica Skropanic is a features reporter for the Record Searchlight/USA Today Network. She covers science, arts, social issues and entertainment stories. Follow her on Twitter @RS_JSkropanic and on Facebook. Join Jessica in the Get Out! Nor Cal recreation Facebook group. To support and sustain this work, please subscribe today. Thank you.