Jupiter hit by another space rock in rare views captured by Japanese skywatchers

It's tough to be the biggest planet in the solar system, and this fall Jupiter is taking a beating.

On Friday (Oct. 15), skywatchers in Japan observed a flash in the atmosphere of the planet's northern hemisphere likely caused by an asteroid slamming into Jupiter, just over a month after a skywatcher in Brazil made a similar observation.

"The flash felt like it was shining for a very long time to me," Twitter user @yotsuyubi21, who photographed the flash with a Celestron C6 telescope, told Space.com.

Related: Jupiter just got smacked by a space rock and an amateur astronomer caught it on camera

They confirmed the observation with a team led by Ko Arimatsu, an astronomer at Japan's Kyoto University who takes part in the Organized Autotelescopes for Serendipitous Event Survey (OASES) project.

According to a tweet posted by the project, that observation included two different types of light, visible and infrared, giving Jupiter an eerie pink glow.

An observer captured a flash on Jupiter on Oct. 15, 2021, as seen in Japan with a Celestron C6. (Image credit: Twitter user @yotsuyubi21)

Jupiter regularly experiences such impacts because of the powerful gravitational tug associated with its mass: Smaller objects, like the asteroids that litter the solar system, can easily end up pulled into the planet's thick, turbulent atmosphere.

Some research suggests that objects at least 150 feet (45 meters) across hit Jupiter every few months on average, although observational constraints mean that even the most thorough monitoring program might be able to catch just one impact or so per year.

According to Sky & Telescope, the Oct. 15 flash hit the planet's North Tropical Zone, near the southern edge of the North Temperate Belt.

Observers aren't yet sure whether the impact left a debris field that scientists can monitor; the September flash did not, and several factors including the object's size and the impact's location factor into observability.

Email Meghan Bartels at mbartels@space.com or follow her on Twitter @meghanbartels. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

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Meghan Bartels
Senior Writer

Meghan is a senior writer at Space.com and has more than five years' experience as a science journalist based in New York City. She joined Space.com in July 2018, with previous writing published in outlets including Newsweek and Audubon. Meghan earned an MA in science journalism from New York University and a BA in classics from Georgetown University, and in her free time she enjoys reading and visiting museums. Follow her on Twitter at @meghanbartels.