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This is an image of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9, broken into many pieces.
Click on image for full size
NASA/NSSDC and the Space Telescope Science Institute

The Discovery of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9

Astronomer Gene Shoemaker has a partnership with his wife, Carolyn, and another astronomer named David Levy. Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 was the ninth comet found by this partnership.

The Shoemakers work in a separate observatory from that of David Levy. When the Shoemakers think they have found a possible comet, they phone their partner so that he can also make an observation to be sure.

Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 was discovered on the morning of March xx, 1993, and seemed to be a large, very strange, "squished" object. Later pictures showed it to be a string of small objects (a "string of pearls").

The Shoemakers traced the orbits backwards in time and realized that it had passed very close by Jupiter and could have been torn apart by Jupiter's gravity. Moreover, they realized that on its next pass by Jupiter it was going to plunge directly in.

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part by the National Science Foundation and NASA, our Founding Partners (the American Geophysical Union and American Geosciences Institute) as well as through Institutional, Contributing, and Affiliate Partners, individual memberships and generous donors. Thank you for your support! NASA AGU AGI NSF