Amateur astronomers in Ireland and Austria were able to capture images of the massive planet Jupiter being hit by a speeding piece of space rock on Thursday, March 17. While it is still uncertain what exact object smashed into the planet's surface, researchers believe it could have either been an asteroid or comet.

John Mckeon, a space enthusiast from Swords, Ireland, was recording the transit of Jupitar's two moons, Ganymede and Io, using his Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope and ASI120mm camera when he saw the giant planet get struck by a fast-moving object. He was able to capture a time-lapsed video of the cosmic event, which he later posted on YouTube.

In his description for the video clip, Mckeon wrote that it was a "happy coincidence" that he was able to record the object's impact on Jupiter during the last time-lapse capture of that Thursday evening.

Meanwhile in Mödling, Austria, another avid stargazer Gerrit Kernbauer also witnessed the event on Jupiter using his Skywatcher Newton 200/1000 telescope. His video was posted on YouTube through the help of American astronomer and "Bad Astronomy" author Phil Plait.

Plait said that the sudden impact on the massive planet occurred just past midnight.

Kernbauer wrote in the video description that it is likely that an asteroid or comet penetrated the high atmosphere on Jupiter, causing it to either burn up or explode.

However, Paul Chodas, an asteroid expert at NASA and head of its Center for Near-Earth Object Studies, said that it is more probable that an asteroid was the one that hit the planet and not a comet. This is because there are far more asteroids in space than comets.

Chodas explained that the cosmic event serves as a reminder that such a powerful impact can occur in the solar system, with Jupiter experiencing more than its fair share of them.

The planet draws in many comets and asteroids, Chodas said, and that their team observes at least one of these impacts on Jupiter every year.

Kernbauer referred to a similar incident on Jupiter, involving the comet Shoemaker-Levy 9, which occurred in July 1994.

Researchers were able to observe the impact of some fragments from the comet using various instruments, including the Hubble Space Telescope, the ROSAT X-ray-observing satellite and the unmanned spacecraft Galileo, which was on its way to the Jupiter system.

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