By Kimberly Peterson
Arizona Daily Wildcat
This July, an explosion will occur with a force larger than if all the world's nuclear weapons were exploded at the same time.
Luckily, it will happen on Jupiter.
The explosion actually will be the remains of a comet plowing into Jupiter's gaseous atmosphere between July 16 and July 22.
The comet was discovered on March 25, 1993 by David Levy, a University of Arizona Flandrau Science Center adjunct scientist, and Gene and Carolyn Shoemaker of the United States Geologic Survey.
While Levy often discovers comets, this is the first one that is going to be observed colliding into Jupiter, said Michael Terenzoni, planetarium technician at Flandrau Science Center. This event may only happen every 1,000 years.
Levy was out of town over the weekend and unavailable for comment.
The coment, dubbed Comet Shoemaker Levy 9, first orbited Jupiter during July 1992, said Jay Melosh, a planetary science professor. At that time, it broke into several fragments.
These fragments will hit Jupiter over a six-day period at the speed of about 40 miles a second, Melosh said. The fragments will be about two million miles apart.
A comet is belived to be made out of rocky material and ice, Melosh said. When it collides with Jupiter, it will make holes in the planet's gaseous clouds.
"If these chunks are big, it drills a hole in the atmosphere the size of a long pencil and that expands with time," Melosh said. "How far it penetrates depends on how big the chunks are."
Such an explosion which has never before been observed by scientists, will enable them to learn more about Jupiter's atmosphere, Melosh said.
"We hope this impact will excite gravity waves over the surface of the atmosphere," Melosh said. "If it brings up deep gases, it might allow us to analyze the light, figure out how much different gases are present, and learn about Jupiter's interior."
Levy will give a presentation about the comet tonight at the UA's Flan- drau Science Center.
"This will be a very unusual and ideal event," Terenzoni said. "We're gearing it for a general audience, and we will talk about comets in general."
Flandrau will also organize "Jupiter watch" in July, where they will set up telescopes during the week of the collision.
But since the comet will be hitting the side of Jupiter away from Earth, people will not see anything except for the planet, Terenzoni said.
Still, scientists think Jupiter may rotate to where the collision site may be visible 20 minutes after the main impact, Melosh said.
The presentation will be held tonight at 7:30 p.m. Admission is $4, and organizers said if the first show sells out they will hold another at 9 p.m. Read Next Article