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Comet Images from the South African Astronomical Observatory


This is being posted on behalf of the people at SAAO - you can contact them direct via email using the following email address:

where it'll be handled by Luis Balona.


On the evening of July 16 (South African time), the first of the 21 major fragments of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 will strike the planet Jupiter at more than 200000 km/hr. Although there is good evidence that this has happened before, this is the first time that such an event has been predicted in advance and given astronomers a chance to watch.

As with other observatories around the globe, the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) is making a considerable effort to observe Jupiter and its environment during the period (July 16-22) when the 21 major fragments of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 are scheduled to strike. Seven fragments will strike while Jupiter is above the horizon in a dark sky as seen from South Africa: fragments A, H, L, Q2, Q1, T, and U. As of 10 July the predicted times were:

A  16 July 21:58  small
H  18 July 21:26  large
L  20 July 00:07  large
Q2 20 July 21:32  medium
Q1 20 July 21:59  largest
T  21 July 20:06  small
U  21 July 23:53  small

All times are South African Standard Time (2 hours later than UTC).


Images obtained at SAAO using the 1.0-m telescope and optical CCD (Matt Senay, University of Hawaii, methane and sodium filters -- comet fragments approaching Jupiter, Jupiter after impact, fireball plumes, if any, extending beyond the edge of Jupiter itself) and the 0.75 m telescope with PtSi infrared camera (Kaz Sekiguchi, SAAO, infrared images of Jupiter and moons) will be available in GIF format.


Images will be accessible by anonymous ftp at the following Internet addresses:

System name     IP number         Directory
-----------     --------------    ----------     /pub/saao     /pub/saao

In /pub/saao at either address are two subdirectories. The subdirectory "images" will have infrared and optical comet/Jupiter images obtained at SAAO. These should begin to appear within 1-2 hours of each impact time, if all goes as planned. All images will be in GIF format. Text files will describe each image. Information on detection of fireballs in the infrared and at optical wavelengths may also appear.

The subdirectory "other" contains pre-impact comet images from other observatories, artists impressions, information about the comet impacts, and a wide variety of text files, software, etc related to the Comet and Jupiter. All images are in GIF, JPG or MPEG format. Suitable players for all formats are available for MS-DOS machines.

sl9_icon.gifComet Shoemaker-Levy Home Page