Exploring the Planets

Shoemaker-Levy 9 Collision with Jupiter

July 16-22, 1994
Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 (named after its discoverers Eugene and Carolyn Shoemaker and David Levy) collided with Jupiter in the first ever observed collision between two objects in our solar system. Jupiter's strong gravitational forces pulled the comet into orbit around the planet and broke it up into a line of numerous separate fragments. Earth-based telescopes around the world, as well as the Hubble Space Telescope, obtained spectacular imagery of impact zones and plumes (or fireballs). The impacts occurred on the side of Jupiter facing away from Earth and then rotated into view a few hours later. The Galileo spacecraft had a more direct view of the impacts as they occurred. The first impact (fragment A) occurred shortly before 5:32 EDT on July 16, 1994 and the last impact (fragment W) occurred July 22, 1994 at 2:59:45 EDT.

This image of comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 was taken by the Hubble Space Telescope's Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 in May, 1994, two months before the comet's 21 fragment chain collided with Jupiter.

Hubble Space Telescope image of Jupiter's cloudtops taken at 5:32 EDT on July 16, 1994, shortly after the impact of the first fragment (A) of comet Shoemaker-Levy 9. A violet (410 nanometer) filter of the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 was used to make the image 1.5 hours after the impact.

Shoemaker-Levy 9

Shoemaker-Levy 9

This sequence of images shows two impact sites and how they evolved over 5 days in the winds of Jupiter's atmosphere.


Jupiter G Impact Evolution