Descriptions of this week’s massive impact into Jupiter makes an interesting point on human existence relative to Jupiter: All Eyepieces on Jupiter After a Big Impact By DENNIS OVERBYE, New York Times July 21, 2009
Anybody get the number of that truck?
Astronomers were scrambling to get big telescopes turned to Jupiter on Tuesday to observe the remains of what looks like the biggest smashup in the solar system since fragments of the Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 crashed into the planet in July 1994.
Something — probably a small comet — smacked into Jupiter on Sunday, leaving a bruise the size of the Pacific Ocean near its south pole. Just after midnight, Australian time, on Sunday, Jupiter came into view in the eyepiece of Anthony Wesley, an amateur astronomer in Murrumbateman. The planet was bearing a black eye spookily similar to the ones left in 1994.
“This was a big event,” said Leigh Fletcher of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “In the inner solar system it would have been a disaster.”
“As far as we can see it looks very much like what happened 15 years ago,” said Brian Marsden of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, who is director emeritus of the International Astronomical Union’s Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams. The bureau issues bulletins about breaking astronomical news. . . .
Dr. Marchis said the shape of the debris splash as revealed in the Keck images suggested that whatever hit Jupiter might have been pulled apart by tidal forces from the planet’s huge gravity before it hit. In an e-mail message, he said humans should be thankful for Jupiter.
“The solar system would have been a very dangerous place if we did not have Jupiter,” he wrote. “We should thank our giant planet for suffering for us. Its strong gravitational field is acting like a shield protecting us from comets coming from the outer part of the solar system.”
So we owe our survival to Jupiter’s size and location! What are the probabilities of a Jupiter being situated outside the orbit of an Earth sized planet?