Shoemaker-Levy 9 Impact

Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9, torn into pieces as a result of a close approach to Jupiter in July 1992, collided with Jupiter during the third week of July 1994. Because the impacts occurred on the night side of Jupiter, the explosions were not directly observable from Earth. The effects on Jupiter, such as atmospheric clouds, ejecta plumes, or seismic thermal disturbances, were observable an hour or so later when the rotation of Jupiter brought the impact sites into Earth's view.

See this JPL web page for more background information and links to other images from the event.

I was part of the science team that observed the event from the NASA IRTF Telescope, with the group using the MIRAC instrument. See Orton et al. 1995, Science, 267, 1277 for a description of the IRTF observations and results. See the following links for images from that observing campaign.

Video of SL/9 Impact and observations from the NASA IRTF Telescope.

Near-IR Images of SL/9 Impacts

High-resolution infrared images of the Shoemaker-Levy 9 impact with Jupiter may be viewed here. These images come from the University of Hawaii's 2.2-meter telescope, and were obtained with a new 1024x1024 infrared camera. Images from July 20 and July 21, 1994 (UT) (July 19 and 20 HST) are available.

All images were taken through a filter centered at 2.3 microns. This filter transmits infrared light in the approximate wavelength range 2.2-2.4 microns, where methane absorption in Jupiter's atmosphere makes Jupiter appear to be relatively dark.

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Image of Jupiter taken at 20:13 on July 19 HST (06:13 July 20 UT), a 5 second exposure, which is the first exposure made of Jupiter with the new 1024x1024 IR camera - six or possibly seven impact sites can be seen. The seeing was relatively poor (just under 1 arcsecond).
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Image of Jupiter taken at 22:03 on July 19 HST (08:03 July 20 UT), a 20 second exposure. The seeing was relatively poor (just under 1 arcsecond).
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Impact plume from fragment R, taken at 21 Jul 05:37:12 UT. Tip-tilt guiding provided image stabilization. Io was used as the guide "star."
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Impact plume in a difference image, made by subtracting an image taken at 05:35:40 from the image shown above. Tip-tilt guiding provided image stabilization. Io was used as the guide "star."
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An image taken approximately 80 minutes after fragment R impact (21 Jul 06:50:03 UT). Io is the bright object in the upper left. This image has better resolution, because Io (the guide "star") was closer to Jupiter when this image was made. It is one of the highest resolution ground-based images of Jupiter taken during the comet impact period.

All images were obtained by K. Hodapp, J. Hora, K. Jim, and D. Jewitt. Image processing was performed by R. Wainscoat and L. Cowie.

The 1024x1024 HgCdTe array used in the infrared camera was developed by Rockwell International Science Center.

For permission to reproduce these images from the UH 2.2-meter telescope in publications, to request transparencies of these images for publication, or to request higher resolution digital images for publication, please contact:

Dr. Richard J. Wainscoat
Institute for Astronomy
2680 Woodlawn Drive
Honolulu, HI 96822
Phone: 808-956-8429
Fax: 808-956-9590