16.07.

1994: Six-Million-Megaton Space Explosion: Comet Collides with Jupiter

1994: Six-Million-Megaton Space Explosion: Comet Collides with Jupiter
Photo Credit To Wikipedia Commons

Story Highlights

  • Historical event:
  • 16 July 1994
  • It is assumed that the largest fragment of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 caused an explosion equivalent to a detonation of a 6,000,000 megaton nuclear bomb, which is about 860 times the entire world's nuclear arsenal.

On this day in 1994, the first fragments of the Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 collided with Jupiter.

It was a spectacular astronomical event because scientists on Earth had the opportunity to observe the collision of two Solar System bodies for the first time.

Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 broke apart into a series of fragments well before the collision under the influence of Jupiter’s gravitational forces. Therefore, the collision looked like bursts of fire at Jupiter that continued for several days, starting on this day.

Before it broke apart, the Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9’s core was about five kilometers in diameter. It split into a large number of fragments, the largest of which was up to 2 kilometers in diameter.

These fragments were moving toward Jupiter at about 216,000 kilometers per hour. For comparison, at such speed the body can cross the distance from London to New York in just a minute and a half.

High speed gave the comet fragments a large kinetic energy, so the impact was strong. It is assumed that the largest fragment caused an explosion equivalent to a detonation of a 6,000,000-megaton nuclear bomb, which is about 860 times the entire world’s nuclear arsenal.

The scars from the impacts were visible on Jupiter for some time and were even more distinctive than the Great Red Spot.

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