On this day in 1994 the comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 began impacting Jupiter. The comet had broken up two years earlier during a close approach to the giant planet and was strung out like a beaded chain of 21 pieces over a distance of 700,00 miles. The pieces were designated with the letters A-W. The largest of the pieces were just over a mile in diameter. They slammed into Jupiter at 140,000 miles per hour. The impact lasted 6 days and was the first event of its kind ever witnessed by people on earth. At left is an animated GIF of images as piece A impacted Jupiter on July 16, 1994. The resulting plume was slightly larger than the diameter of earth. The images were made over a period of 16 minutes by Dr. Kaz Sekiguchi of the South Africa Astronomical Observatory.
Michael E. Palmer is a writer and photographer based in Alabama.
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