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Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 Approaches Jupiter



This is a composite of two CCD images of comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 which were obtained on July 1, 1994, with the Danish 1.5-m telescope at the ESO La Silla observatory.

It shows most of the individual fragments of the doomed comet (A to S), just two weeks before the first impact happens. At the time of the exposure, the comet was about 11 million kilometres from the planet, and the rate of motion was gradually accelerating because of the increasing gravitational pull from Jupiter.

The fragment that will reach Jupiter first (A; on July 16, at about 19:30 Universal Time) is seen at the upper left, very close to the left border of the photo. The dust from the fragments is all on the Northern side of the train.

Technical information: Red filter; composite of two 15-min exposures; mediocre seeing (1.2 arcseconds); reasonably well flat-fielded despite strong presence of straylight from Jupiter (situated outside the frame, towards the upper left). North is up and East is to the left.

This is ESO PR Photo SL9J/94-01 which accompanies the ESO SL-9/Jupiter Information Package. It may be reproduced, if credit is given to the European Southern Observatory.

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