Friday, July 31, 2009

It would have sucked mightily

The black spot is huge, nearly 10,000 kilometers across, making it roughly the size of the Earth. It’s composed of dust, basically vaporized whatever-it-was-that-smacked-into-Jupiter. Probably an asteroid; a comet would’ve been spotted before the impact (because they are brighter), and no one saw it. The impactor itself was probably several hundred meters across, and the explosive energy release (in non-sciencey speak, the gigantic kaboom) would’ve been measured in the tens of thousands of megatons. Given that the largest nuclear weapon ever detonated on Earth was about 50 megatons, you may start to grasp the horrifying power of this event. Had it happened here, well. It wouldn’t be a global extinction event, not quite, but it would’ve sucked mightily.
The Bad Astronomy blog, on the recent impact on Jupiter.


JuliaM said...

There seems to be a lot of celestial occurences recently:

Alan B said...

This is exactly as one would expect.

Jupiter acts as a giant planetary vacuum cleaner. There are huge numbers of interplanetary pieces of debris lurking about beyond Saturn and out to the Oort cloud.

When one of these is disturbed from where it "lived" for the last 4.5 billion years it comes in towards the Sun and gets attracted towards the largest mass on the way in i.e. Jupiter.

The presence of Jupiter (and to a lesser extent Saturn) is probably an important factor in the evolution of life on the Earth.