Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9
donbâledâr-e Shoemaker-Levy 9
Fr.: comète Shoemaker-Levy 9
A comet, formally designated D/1993 F2, whose shattered nucleus crashed into the planet → Jupiter over the period of July 16-22, 1994, several months after its discovery. The collision produced scars that were visible from Earth even in small telescopes. The cataclysmic event was the first collision between two → solar system bodies ever observed. The comet had been discovered on March 24, 1993, from photographs taken using the 0.46 m → Schmidt telescope at → Palomar Observatory. The appearance of the comet was reported as "most unusual": the object appeared as a "dense linear bar'' with a "fainter, wispy tail.'' The comet's brightness was reported as about magnitude 14, more than a thousand times too faint to be seen with the naked eye. Later observations revealed that the "bar'' was made up of as many as 21 pieces "strung out like pearls on a string,'' according to one researcher. Orbit calculations show that on July 7, 1992, the comet had passed only 25,000 km above Jupiter. The differential pull of the planet's enormous → gravitational force on the near and far sides of the comet fragmented it into the 21 or more pieces with sizes estimated at up to 2 km and an enormous amount of smaller debris. The comet had been in a rapidly changing orbit around Jupiter for some time before this, probably for at least several decades.
→ comet; Named after the husband and wife scientific team of American Carolyn S. (1929-) and Eugene M. Shoemaker (1928-1997) and Canadian amateur astronomer David H. Levy (1948-)