Jupiter the Catcher of Our Solar System
Jupiter Impact Scar 2009
Impact Scars from Comet Shoemaker Levy 9 1994
Yet Another Impact on Jupiter June 3rd 2010
Jupiter a Cosmic Catcher
In the last sixteen years Earth based astronomers have watched Jupiter be struck by cosmic debris three times, one of those impacts just took place a few days ago. The video image of the impact was caught by an amateur astronomer and the video was placed on the internet. In 1994 Jupiter was hit by a string of cometary debris from comet Shoemaker-Levy 9. The largest fireball recorded was the size of our planet and the impacts left dark scars that were witnessed weeks after the impact event. Why is it that we can see so many impacts on Jupiter and not the other planets in the solar system? Well it is a matter of size and gravity.
Jupiter is approximately a thousand times larger than our Earth. It would take a thousand Earths to equal the mass of Jupiter. Jupiter is a tenth the size of the Sun the most massive object in the solar system. Next to the other planets Jupiter is the biggest kid on the playground and that makes Jupiter an easy target when it comes to cosmic debris. The planets gravity is massive and NASA has used this fact to its advantage when exploring deep space to accelerate deep space probes to the other gas or Jovian planets like Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. Being so massive has disadvantages when it comes staying out of the way, comets and rogue asteroids impact the massive planet regularly. Though we don't see most of these impacts because they are too small for our Earth based telescopes to see. But with new technology even amateurs are now able to capture some of these impacts in real time.
In a way Jupiter plays a major role in the survival of life on Earth. Being a cosmic catcher it sweeps up the bulk of the debris that could smash into the inner planets if Jupiter wasn't there. We being an inner planet should be happy that these impacts are taking place. Without Jupiter it is very possible that life would not have evolved here on Earth. With massive impacts happening all the time on our world there would be no time for advanced life to evolve or survive.
In 2009 another impact event happened on Jupiter where the planet developed a scar the size of the pacific ocean. Seen by an Australian astronomer and photographed astronomers never saw it coming. The explosion was so massive it was like a thousand nuclear bombs going off all at once. Unlike a comets asteroids have no tail that shines so that we can see them coming. A few days ago in June 2010 another explosion was captured on Jupiter's surface. There is no doubt that more impacts will be seen as astronomers turn their eyes to Jupiter in the future and watching these impacts helps us to learn at how much force an impact would have here on Earth. I for one am glad we have Jupiter the Catcher of our Solar System.