A Big Hole In the Sky

A photo of the atmospheric scar left by the apparent comet hit on Jupiter

A photo of the atmospheric "scar" left by the apparent comet hit on Jupiter

Last week NASA reported on an apparent large comet strike on Jupiter that left a visible “mark” on that gas giant’s upper atmosphere.  The object punched through Jupiter’s sky near its south pole, and the notable change in Jupiter’s appearance was first spotted by an amateur astronomer in Australia.

I mention this because I think the photo above is cool and because the white mark left by the object is the size of Earth!  That’s right — the hole in the atmosphere made as the object burned through is the size of our entire planet.  That fact just reaffirms the awesome size of Jupiter, which according to NASA statistics is 1,316 times the volume of Earth.  (Remember the science class where the teacher explained that if Jupiter was the size of a basketball, the earth would be the size of a marble, or something similarly tiny?)  And, get this:  Jupiter has 62 officially recognized moons.  It has so many moons that they haven’t yet come up with mythological names for all of them, and as of moon number 50 they have been given uninspiring names like “S 2003 J2.”

The number of moons just reaffirms why we should all be glad that Jupiter is out there.  Jupiter’s mass and size is such that it acts as kind of cosmic Dirt Devil, sucking up many of the bits of cosmic debris roaming our little corner of the galaxy and keeping them from reaching the inner parts of the solar system and menacing our fair planet.  Jupiter, thanks for taking one for the team!

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