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Shoemaker-Levy 9's 10th Anniversary

timothy posted more than 10 years ago | from the gifts-of-tinfoils-hats-are-appropriate dept.

Space 26

Chuck1318 writes "July 16 is the 10th anniversary of the first impact of pieces of the comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 on the planet Jupiter. The Planetary Society is marking this occasion with a call for applications for Shoemaker grants to fund "amateur and underfunded professional observers anywhere in the world." Shoemaker-Levy 9 created impact features on Jupiter that were larger than the Earth and helped stimulate the search for possible earth-impacting objects."

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first post honor (-1, Offtopic)

Madcapjack (635982) | more than 10 years ago | (#9726470)

Will this be my first ever first post? Meaningless!

Re:first post honor (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9726498)

not much an honor when nobody else posts in the next five minutes, is it?

And on topic: i've met very few who ever have had adequate funding. hurray for more funding, is all I have to say.

Thank you, Jupiter! (3, Interesting)

adeyadey (678765) | more than 10 years ago | (#9726738)

You can thank Jupiter for catching comets like shoemaker-levy. More recent theories indicate that Jupiter acts like a giant hoover, catching debris that would otherwise end up hitting earth, which in turn would make advanced life on Earth impossible due to frequency of large impacts.

Even as it is, impacts the size of the Meteor that hit Tunguska, Siberia in 1907 probably happen every at least century or so - and if that happened over New York, you can say goodbye NY..

Re:Thank you, Jupiter! (1, Offtopic)

robvangelder (472838) | more than 10 years ago | (#9726800)

Wasn't the 1907 Siberia impact actually a Tesla experiment gone horribly wrong?

Re:Thank you, Jupiter! (2, Funny)

another_henry (570767) | more than 10 years ago | (#9731435)

No. Tesla was not a magician, just a good physicist and engineer with some incorrect ideas.

Re:Thank you, Jupiter! (1)

beamjockey (578322) | more than 10 years ago | (#9753972)

I'm going to start a rumor that Shoemaker-Levy 9 was a Tesla experiment gone horribly wrong.

Re:Thank you, Jupiter! (1)

another_henry (570767) | more than 10 years ago | (#9755167)


What about Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune? (2, Informative)

MagicDude (727944) | more than 10 years ago | (#9726829)

I would think that the other outer planets would play a significant role in that theory. While jupiter is on one side of the solar system, meteors could swing in from the other side and pound the earth. I would think that all the outer planets would form a net to catch asteroids. Of course, that's if you treat the univserse as 2D, there's still stuff approaching from vectors perpendicular to the general orientation of the solar system. In that sense, the large outer planets could actually deflect stuff into the earth if it's initially on a vector that wouldn't ordinarily meet with the earth.

True, but... (4, Interesting)

DrMorpheus (642706) | more than 10 years ago | (#9727002)

You have to remember that most of the material that the solar system accreated from was in a disk around the sun. So most of the dangerous debris is on the plane of the ecliptic, which sorta renders the Solar System 2D.

Now the gas giants do indeed "hoover" up a lot of the space debris that might otherwise hit the inner planets you also have to realize that they're also responsible for causing debris from the Kuniper Belt and Oort Cloud to decend out of their respective places in the outer Solar System into the inner Solar System. Due to gravitational perturbation.

So I'd argue the gas giants are sort of a mixed blessing overall.

Re:True, but... (2, Interesting)

barakn (641218) | more than 10 years ago | (#9728248)

And also asteroids within the main belt that get to close to a resonant orbit. This phenomenon is invoked to explain how the remnants of collisions in the asteroid belt can arrive at Earth so quickly [] . It's better to think of the giant planets as orbit randomizers than as Hoovers.

Re:True, but... (2, Interesting)

Chuck1318 (795796) | more than 10 years ago | (#9729180)

The thing that amazed me when I read about that collision is that even today, 500 million years later, 20 per cent [] of all meteorites are remnants from that collision.

Re:True, but... (1)

snake_dad (311844) | more than 10 years ago | (#9733453)

I seriously doubt that the gravitational forces of the outer planets have any influence whatsoever on the Oort cloud. I think that with the distances involved even the gravity of Jupiter would be negligible compared to the Sun's. Of course IANA astronomer, anyone care to provide some calculations?

Oh, and the other one is called the Kuiper Belt. How did that 'n' ever sneak up there? :)

It sounds kewler with an "n" (1)

DrMorpheus (642706) | more than 10 years ago | (#9733881)


Well your doubts have no basis in fact, as this link shows [] .

The Oort cloud is the source of long-period comets and possibly higher-inclination intermediate comets that were pulled into shorter period orbits by the planets, such as Halley and Swift-Tuttle. Comets can also shift their orbits due to jets of gas and dust that rocket from their icy surface as they approach the sun. Although they get off course, comets do have initial orbits with widely different ranges, from 200 years to once every million years or more. Comets entering the planetary region for the first time, come from an average distance of 44,000 astronomical units. Long period comets can appear at any time and come from any direction. Bright comets can usually be seen every 5-10 years. Two recent Oort cloud comets were Hyakutake and Hale-Bopp. Hyakutake was average in size, but came to 0.10 AU (15,000,000 km) from Earth, which made it appear especially spectacular. Hale-Bopp, on the other hand, was an unusually large and dynamic comet, ten times that of Halley at comparable distances from the sun, making it appear quite bright, even though it did not approach closer than 1.32 AU (197,000,000 km) to the Earth

It does sound kewler with an "n" (1)

snake_dad (311844) | more than 10 years ago | (#9736143)

Alright, even though earlier in the article other forces are named as the main actors on Oort Cloud comets. I read the part that you quote as "once the comet is nudged towards the sun, the bigger planets can then influence the orbits so they become shorter".

Why do I still doubt it? Jupiter mass is only 0.001 solar mass [] , Oort cloud distance is in the order of magnitude of 100,000 AU [] , gravity influence decreases with distance squared, and comets are small.

But hey, the Oort Cloud has not even been proven to exist [] so why are we bickering? :)

Re:True, but... (1)

PhilHibbs (4537) | more than 10 years ago | (#9769389)

debris from the Kuniper Belt
It's Juniper belt, fool.

Re:Thank you, Jupiter! (1)

Man_Of_Science (797096) | more than 10 years ago | (#9727198)

thank goodness for our atmosphere...anyone know how fast meteors and comets move through space...without lookin it up?

Re:Thank you, Jupiter! (3, Informative)

Chuck1318 (795796) | more than 10 years ago | (#9727677)

First of all, one nitpick: Meteors don't move through space; a particle only becomes a meteor when it begins burning up in the atmosphere. A particle falling into earth's gravity well will build up kinetic energy equal to the potential energy it is giving up, so it will have at least escape velocity from the earth when it reaches atmosphere and becomes a meteor, 11 km/sec. Long period comets fall into the Sun's gravity well from just about the top, so its kinetic energy will be almost escape velocity from its distance from the sun at any time. At the earth's orbit, its velocity would be (um, mumble 30 km/sec times the square root of two, mumble) about 42 km/sec. Short period comets would have whatever orbital speed is determined by its orbit.

Re:Thank you, Jupiter! (1)

Man_Of_Science (797096) | more than 10 years ago | (#9728656)

lol, thankyou, 11km/sec woulda been just dandy, but thanks for the...."nitpick"

SL9 was awesome (2, Informative)

LMCBoy (185365) | more than 10 years ago | (#9727225)

I was an undergrad at the time; we were watching Jupiter with the Steward Observatory 21-inch telescope [] . The actual impact events were not visible from Earth, but as Jupiter spun around, we saw the scars left by the impacts. Very exciting stuff!

Wow... (3, Informative)

eingram (633624) | more than 10 years ago | (#9728768)

10 years? It really does seem like yesterday. Shit! I was thirteen! My dad took me up to the local science type place where they had telescopes lined up. I peered through the telescope and I was able to see "a bruise" on Jupiter! Jupiter! I thought it was quite cool and I've been hooked ever since. I hope more celestial events like this take place in my lifetime.

Re:Wow... (0, Offtopic)

mikehuntstinks (769637) | more than 10 years ago | (#9729917)

ya sure, thats what you want us to think dont you, guess what buddy its not gonna work on me k? ... ya thats what i thought.. sometimes ya feel like a nut, sometimes you feel like a shoe

not according to it (1)

mikehuntstinks (769637) | more than 10 years ago | (#9729907)

wouldn't it make much more sense to measure this in Jupiter years instead of earth years.

"Shoemaker" grants for astronomers confusing? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9730816)

Thank God it wasn't Eugene Hitler that discovered the thing.

Big net event as well (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9742834)

As I recall, this was the biggest event on the internet to that date. There were lots of mirrors setup to handle the load, while small by todays standards, was the taxing for websites.. The net is where pictures from Hubble, and other space/land based cameras showed up first.

Super Comet Fragment Impact Extra-Large Explosions (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 10 years ago | (#9752282)

From Bill Higgins's USENET post to of 1997/09/03 [] , reposted here without his permission but I think he'll understand :)

Super Comet Fragment Impact
Jordin T. Kare and Bill Higgins
Copyright 1994 by Jordin T. Kare and Bill Higgins

So Bill asked innocently whether anyone had written a song about the
Jovian Train Wreck, and the Muse of Parody tortured Jordin until the
answer was "yes." Tune: "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious," of


Super comet fragment impact extra-large explosions
Even though a sight to stir astronomers' emotions
If you watch them long enough you'll get peculiar notions

Verse 1

I used to talk of dinosaurs and layers of irid-
Ium until my friends all ran and all the neighbors hid.
But now my tales of comet hails are what they want to know
And all because Ma Nature has put on a cosmic show.

Verse 2

For several weeks those gleeful geeks have popped up on my Teevee
Astronomers displaying pictures of Shoemaker-Levy
It's giving more enjoyment, from Mt. Stromlo to Caltech
Than a demolition derby or a locomotive wreck!

Verse 3

Professionals watch Jupiter with Keck and Hale and Hubble
But we can see those spots and flares with hardly any trouble
Be wary of astronomy, for it can change your life
I watched them with me girl one night, and now me girl's me wife
[whack!] And a stellar thing she is, too

(changed chorus:
If you watch them long enough you'll miss a few promotions...)

Re:Super Comet Fragment Impact Extra-Large Explosi (1)

beamjockey (578322) | more than 10 years ago | (#9760539)

Yes, I understand. Happy to have you share it, especially if you spell our names right!
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