Amateur Astrophotographer Captures Huge Explosion on Jupiter

An apparent meteor struck Jupiter yesterday, creating an explosion so massive that amateur astronomers looking through their telescopes her on Earth were able to see it. Amateur astrophotographer George Hall of Dallas, Texas happened to have a camera and telescope pointed at the planet at the time, and managed to snag some video footage of the fireball, which he soon uploaded to his Flickr account.

The impact was first observed by amateur astronomer Dan Peterson of Racine, Wisconsin, who was gazing at Jupiter through his telescope when he saw “a bright flash that lasted only 1.5 – 2 seconds.” After Peterson shared what he had witnessed on an online astronomy forum, Hall came across the post and realized that he might have captured it on video. He went through the footage he captured that morning, and sure enough, there was the impact.

A comparison of the relative sizes of Earth and Jupiter

This whole story is a visual illustration of an awesome fact about our solar system: that Jupiter acts as a “cosmic vacuum cleaner”, protecting our planet from impacts that could be devastating. EarthSky writes,

Jupiter’s gravity also protects us. Long-period comets enter the solar system from its outer reaches. Jupiter’s gravity slings most of these fast-moving ice balls out of the solar system before they can get close to Earth. So long-period comets are thought to strike Earth only about every 30 million years. Without Jupiter nearby, long-period comets would collide with our planet up to 1000 times more frequently.

To understand how devastating this kind of impact would be on Earth, consider this: a similar strike in 2009 caused a bruise on the face of Jupiter the size of the Pacific Ocean.

(via Space)

  • Keiran Blackwell

    The idea that Jupiter is a protector is actually out dated, it’s believed that Jupiter also acts as a gravitational sling shot; throwing lumps of rock and ice inward into the solar system.

  • Alok


  •!/thelonelylights Adam Cross

    I’m not saying it’s aliens but…

  • Samcornwell

    This is huge! Did Nasa feel a bit dumb that they didn’t know it was happening, considering they just mapped most of the sky?

  •!/thelonelylights Adam Cross

    because NASA know about every single meteor flying towards every planet and are able to record every single one…

  • madmax

    Actually they don´t, but Hollywood´s NASA knows. Also they can destroy meteors sending Bruce Willis to do the job.

  •!/thelonelylights Adam Cross

    I know they don’t – that was my point – I was being sarcastic…

  • Zak Henry

    Astronomers have a pretty good idea of large objects in regular orbits around the moon because it is relatively easy to know where to look for them. This object clearly had a rogue trajectory, which makes it incredibly unlikely that the object was known to exist prior to the event. The odds of us seeing an earth killing object more than a day prior to impact are miniscule.

  • opiapr

    The explocion size is about Earth size.

  • Erlin Sierra

    They never explain why there’s an explosion when something hits Jupiter. isn’t it a gas giant? if it has nothing to hit (surface), then why all the lights and explosions as if it hit something?

  • Jackson Cheese

    It is a gas giant, but that doesn’t mean it’s the consistency of a cloud. The gas on Jupiter is under a lot of pressure and is very dense. A large object hitting that while going hundreds of miles per second is going to create a tremendous explosion.

    Think about when you see a meteorite in the sky. Most of those are just the size of a grain of sand, but the friction and force at which it enters the atmosphere creates a light that you can easily see from the ground.

    This is like on a much larger scale.

  • Gilsonn Pete

    I’m sorry, but it looks like its fake, the brightness of the explosion and its make-up, the way it looks is just off to me. It can be done in after effects. Its like they just mask-off the “explosion” which looks like a pattern in Photoshop and then tracked the camera movement to match it..I don’t know about you but it doesn’t look real to me.

  • KiteTeam


  • Deborah Kay Cass

    yeah looks fake to me too.

  • rtfe

    ahhhhhhhhh, internet

  • Former JPLer


  • 323232

    and no other observatory has monitored that and has better footage?
    hard to believe….

  • 434343

    you noticed that the space shuttle has an heat shield? for what do you think?
    now imagine a very “thick” atmosphere and a fast moving object.

  • me

    Wow not saying aliens but…. aliens

  • I’m surrounded by eediots

    are you serious now or not? Can I ask how the hell you would know what a large explosion “at that distance” would look like?

  • madmax

    I know you know they don´t know… me sarcastic too!

  • Gilsonn Pete

    I mean, we can brush off the “distance” part, but focus on the appearance and look of the supposed “explosion”. Why is it that it quickly disintegrate in just a mere 1 or 2 seconds given how massive that “explosion” as they said it is? Just one close look from those who can actually observe can clearly see that the “explosion” is obviously super-imposed, it doesn’t blend in with the planet, you know what I mean? And where is the explanation regarding that explosion? If its an asteroid, where’s the anomaly before the said explosion? none! Its too fake if they say its coming from the inside coz its obviously super-imposed. By the way, would you mind changing your handle coz its more appropriate to you. lol Gullible clueless people.

  • Ren Bostelaar

    It’s space, you goofnugget.

  • Gilsonn Pete

    What a clear explanation, as if you know what you’re saying.

  • Jackson Cheese

    Three people don’t get the joke.

  • Jackson Cheese

    Gilsonn, just stop. The more you talk the dumber you look,

  •!/thelonelylights Adam Cross

    unless you know of Ancient Aliens and the greatness that is Giorgio Tsoukalos then the joke is lost

  • Neil deGrasse Tyson

    I didn’t know PetaPixel had so many astronomy experts with the credentials to debunk what they think is a “fake” video.

  • Guest

    Where’s the mark of the impact? none. Atleast Shoemaker left a mark. I’m not trying to be astronomically knowledgeable, I’m just using my eyes and analyze the video which is very suspect..An asteroid hit won’t look like bubbles bursting like in the video. What similarity are you talking about?

  • Jackson Cheese

    Do you have no intellectual curiosity? Why be so quick to dismiss it as fake without doing a little research. It isn’t difficult. These kinds of impacts on Jupiter happen relatively often, and they always look like this. There’s even a term for it. It’s called an “Impact Flash”. And we’re viewing it through an amateur astronomers equipment. This one is notable because nobody knew about the object and filmed it by chance.

    Why no mark of the impact? Well for one, because Jupiter is a ball of high pressure gas, and not solid. Secondly, because the impact mark would be obscured by the clouds that are always present on Jupiter. And thirdly, astronomers with more powerful telescopes are in fact now looking to see if an impact mark develops.

    This event has caught the attention of the astronomy community, but you wouldn’t know that because you seem to have no knowledge of the subject. Nowhere but here on PetaPixel have I seen anybody accuse this as being a fake. But I guess that could mean that photography gearheads know more about this stuff than astronomers do.

    Google news search “Jupiter explosion” and you’ll find a lot more info on the subject.

  • shoop expert

    This looks like I shoop, I can tell from a few pixels and seeing quite a few shoops in my time

  • Neart

    It was Ancient Aliens tv group inside job!

  • Chris

    Us astronomers don’t quite have the funding to constantly monitor every planet in the solar system for events like these. Especially when we have such dedicated amateur astronomers who are quite good at it, and do it for free!

  • Chris

    Keep in mind that the “bubbles” you’re seeing in the explosion aren’t real effects, they’re scintillation from our own atmosphere. If you were observing this from above the atmosphere (diffraction limited, not seeing limited) the explosion would have just appeared as a bright flash. The details you’re seeing and calling “bubbles” aren’t what you think they are.

  • Chris

    Nope. Because you can’t just “map most of the sky” for such distant objects in any simple way. It requires a *lot* of difficult continued work.

  • FunnyGuy

    September 11th? That “meteor” looked more like a passenger aircraft to me lol… sadly one can’t hear the “Allahu akbar” because of the vacuum xD…

  • brob

    if this was filmed from earth, wouldn’t it be safe to say that the trajectory of the meteor was travelling away from earth?

    otherwise it wouldn’t have been visible from the other side of the planet

  • Guest

    The impact was first observed by amateur astronomer Dan Peterson of Racine, Wisconsin” – was it because of the UTC-6 timezone that he was able to observe the impact before the other guy?

  • Andrew

    Thumbs up for introducing me to the term “goofnugget.” I think I’ll find a way to use it later today.

  • SteveGinGTO

    This strikes me as a shooting star sort of event, an incoming object flaring up as it encounters an atmosphere. It seems reasonable that such an object would do it at the top of Jupiter’s atmosphere, as this seems to be. It also seems reasonable that it would flare briefly – as Earth’s shooting stars and many meteors do. Do we have any video from the shuttle or ISS of what these look like from above? It’s briefness suggests it was more like a shooting star than an impactor. I see nothing that would rule out such an event. There is no reason from SL-9 to suggest that that is the only kind of event that we might see on Jupiter; on the contrary, we should expect to see all sorts of varying events. If most objects entering Earth’s atmosphere are tiny and flare briefly, it seems consistent that most entering Jupiter’s atmosphere would do the same, and it would also seem that larger ones would flare on Jupiter than on Earth (instead of impacting), and make larger flares when they do.

  • redass

    You do know that implies Jupiter is responsible for a lot of the water on Earth?

  • redass

    “it’s shopped because pixels”

    Get a telescope and look at damn jupiter.