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Hubble Space Telescope's Observations of Comet SL9


Click here to see the Hubble Space Telescope's view of Jupiter during one of the impacts.

Hubble Space Telescope

The telescope's science instruments will provide extremely high-resolution images and spectral data on the Jupiter environment before, during and after the comet collision. Astronomers will study the evolution and other physical changes in the comet prior to impacts. This will provide detailed information about the impact times, comet fragment sizes and changes in the dusty "coma" region around the fragments. Though impacts are predicted to occur on the far side of Jupiter, astronomers hope HST can image the resulting fireball that might be visible on the limb of the planet. After the collisions, HST will look for changes in Jupiter's atmosphere, changes on its satellites, effects on the magnetosphere and any development of a new ring system.

HST will perform a comprehensive and simultaneous mapping of Jupiter's upper atmosphere in the aftermath of the impacts. Hubble's high resolution might uncover atmospheric changes that are below the visible-light resolution limit of ground-based telescopes. Researchers will look for shock waves that might propagate across the Jovian atmosphere; new cloud features that might form at the impact sites; and the behavior of cometary ices and dust injected into Jupiter's upper atmosphere. At least 100 orbits will be used. Observations will be made by six teams from a variety of universities.

Public Affairs contacts:
Ray Villard
Hubble Space Telescope Science Institute
Baltimore, Md.
(410) 338-4514

Jim Elliott
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
Greenbelt, Md.
(301) 286-6256

Hubble Space Telescope Observation Plans

Hubble Space Telescope Observations


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Ron Baalke

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