And by Jupiter, I don’t mean that goofy Roman god with the awful wife. I mean our friend, the planet. Jupiter took a hit for us today, and we owe it a debt of gratitude. An asteroid or comet clearly meant for Earth crashed into Jupiter instead. It’s as if the whole point of the gassy behemoth were to deflect giant flying things from making it into Earth’s orbit and possibly disrupting a wedding. Or our axis.
“It’s kind of a scary proposition to see how often Jupiter gets hit,” said George Hall, an amateur astronomer from Dallas who captured the flash on video this morning.
Hall didn’t actually see the hit when it happened. Early this morning, he brought out his 12-inch Meade Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope with the Point Grey Flea3 video camera attached, just to capture imagery for a composite picture of Jupiter. ”Jupiter happens to be ideally positioned at about 6 o’clock in the morning,” he explained. “It’s right overhead.” …
Jupiter impacts are of great interest to astronomers, amateur and professional, because they’re part of the orbital billiards game that has shaped our solar system. In some cases, the cosmic interloper is destroyed before it has any visible effect on Jupiter’s cloud tops. In weightier cases, the object breaks up and leaves black marks on the planet’s atmosphere. The case of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 in 1994 is the most notable in recent memory.
Beyond the planetary science, there’s the “phew” factor: Astronomers suspect that giant Jupiter’s gravitational pull serves as a cosmic shield, sweeping up incoming objects that would have a deadlier effect if they were to slam into our planet. Some scientists say that without Jupiter, life on Earth wouldn’t have had much of a chance. (emphasis emphasized by me)
Billiards game? I think not. We all know why Jupiter is where it is. So let’s lift a flask of low-carb, nonalcoholic mead in honor of Jupiter. Here’s to you, you fat freak.
And hey — you stay classy, Sinope.