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IRTF Image of Fragment K Pre-Impact


Infrared Detection of Fragment K of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 One Hour Before Collision with Jupiter

This infrared image was obtained at the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility on Mauna Kea, Hawaii. It was taken at 2.26 microns wavelength, and shows Jupiter with three impact sites (A, H, and G from left to right), a bright star in the lower center, and Fragment K of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 approximately 45 minutes before impact (arrow). At this time the fragment was ~2.5 Jovian radii from the planet center. The fragment is very faint compared to Jupiter and the star, and the scattered light from Jupiter has been artifically suppressed in order to enhance the fragment's contrast versus the background. This process has also reduced the comet's visible extent to that of a point source. Other images in this series show the fragment is moving relative to Jupiter in the direction indicated by the arrow. Other bright points in the image are faint stars.

This image was taken in a 30 second exposure using the IRTF 256 x 256 pixel InSb near infrared camera, NSFCAM, at 09:26 July 19, 1994 UT.

Casey Lisse, Phil Esterle, and Mike A'Hearn for the IRTF Comet Collision Science Team

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