Privileged Planet Update: Jupiter Takes One for the Home Team
Among the many, many features of our planet's position in the cosmos that speak of design and purpose -- its placement for the seeming purpose of permitting the existence of intelligent beings capable of discovering the rest of the universe -- there is the little matter of Jupiter. Leading physicist George Wetherill argued that we owe our planetary survival to the gas giant.
Dr. Wetherill's work also revealed the importance of Jupiter as protector of Earth and other planets. He showed that Jupiter's enormous gravitational field provides a shield from orbiting asteroids and comets, deflecting most of them into the solar system. He estimated that 10,000 times as many objects as big as the asteroid that annihilated the dinosaurs would have hit Earth if Jupiter wasn't standing guard.So it's both a confirmation and a relief to report that evidently Jupiter once again has taken a hit for the home team. It happened Monday, as Robert T. Gonzalez notes at io9:
Something just went down on Jupiter. Monday morning, at 11:35:30 UT, amateur astronomers glimpsed a brief but blazing flash of light in the upper reaches of the planet's cloudy atmosphere. If past observations are any indication, Jupiter may have just sustained a major impact event. If that's the case, the gas giant may have just saved Earth from a devastating cosmic collision.Nice work, Jupiter.