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.
Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!
Our online store
on science education, classroom activities in The Earth Scientist
specimens, and educational games
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 path plotted in this diagram. This...more
The force of gravity caused by an object gets weaker as you move farther away from that object. In this picture, the Earth is pulling on the Moon, and the Moon is pulling on the Earth. The Moon pulls more...more
Anthony Wesley is an amateur astronomer in Australia. On the night of July 19, 2009, Wesley noticed a dark spot on Jupiter that hadn't been there before. He had discovered the remains of a huge impact...more
Hale-Bopp continues to offer new surprises as two astronomers report of their study of the comet. Using the Hubble Space Telescope and the International Ultraviolet Explorer, the astronomers did a year-long...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. The crash of a comet like Shoemaker-Levy 9...more