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
What we learned from Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9
Scientists have learned a great deal from the crash of comet Shoemaker-Levy 9.
Scientists traced the orbit of the comet backwards in time to guess its origin. This calculation, along with the discovery of objects in the Kuiper Belt suggested that Jupiter does not necessarily solely draw to itself objects coming in from the Oort cloud, but may draw objects from closer in.
- The crash of comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 might not have been a once in a millennium event, but happens more frequently. A search of lunar surfaces revealed that, indeed, there was evidence to suggest that strings of broken comets had impacted solar system objects in the past.
- Evidence suggests that the explosions created perturbations in Jupiter's atmosphere which remained for 2 years.
- Scientists still debate how fragile the comet was. The evidence of comet SL-9 can support the idea of either a strong nucleus or a weak nucleus.
- Scientists still debate the significance of the fact that very little water seemed to be stirred up from Jupiter's atmosphere.
- Scientists still debate whether SL-9 was a comet or an asteroid.
- Evidence from the comet crash seems to suggest that Jupiter's powerful radio emissions may have their source in particles stirred up from the atmosphere during storms.
Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!
Learn about Earth and space science, and have fun while doing it! The games
section of our online store
includes a climate change card game
and the Traveling Nitrogen game
You might also be interested in:
Mathematical theory suggests that comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 was likely a short-period comet which was captured into orbit around Jupiter in 1929 and began to execute the trajectory plotted in this diagram....more
Hale-Bopp continues to offer surprises as astronomers study the comet. Using the Hubble Space Telescope and the International Ultraviolet Explorer, astronomers have found that their are distinctly different...more
Six spacecraft flew by Halley's comet in 1986. There were two spacecraft launched from Japan, Suisei and Sakigake, and two from the Soviet Union, Vega 1 & 2. One spacecraft, ICE, from the United States...more
Comets are observed to go around the sun in a long period of time or a short period of time. Thus they are named "long-period" or "short-period" comets. One group of short-period comets, called the Jupiter...more
Scientists have learned a great deal from the crash of comet Shoemaker-Levy 9. Scientists traced the orbit of the comet backwards in time to guess its origin. This calculation, along with the discovery...more
As the ices of the comet nucleus evaporate, they expand rapidly into a large cloud around the central part of the comet. This cloud, called the coma, is the atmosphere of the comet and can extend for millions...more
When evaporation begins, the gas is propelled from the nucleus at supersonic speed (depicted by arrows in the figure). Because of the low gravity in space, this means that the molecules from the nucleus...more