Talk:Comet Shoemaker–Levy 9

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I see some of the ",000 km" have been turned into Mm.

Does anyone use the megametre in practice? MKS (meter-kilogram-second as referenced in the article International System of Units) astronomers tend to use "×106 m" (or, for CGS, "×108 cm"); others generally use "thousand km", in my experience. -- ALoan (Talk) 18:26, 19 Apr 2005 (UTC)

...and terms[edit]

I think ,000km is more immediately comprehendible to the general public, and astronomers too - the refs pretty much universally use ,000 km in this context. Therefore, I've switched it back.

Also, the term perizene is not ever used by astronomers. Much used here on Wikipedia is the Wikipedia:Google test, but in astronomy you can also use the ADS test (ADS is the astrophysics data service, and has an extremely advanced search engine which covers references back to the 1850s), which in this case gives perijove an impressive 17,882-0 victory over perizene in the number of occurrences in the literature. So, I've changed that back as well. Worldtraveller 18:49, 19 Apr 2005 (UTC)

Oops, it's not quite such an emphatic win for perijove - I had the synonym replacement turned on so it was searching for Jupiter, Jovian etc as well as perijove - it's actually 41-0. Worldtraveller 19:19, 19 Apr 2005 (UTC)
Indeed - I was happy to read the apsis page, and see the "correct" term perizene, but from a google test it seem that no-one uses it apart from WP and its mirrors. -- ALoan (Talk) 20:00, 19 Apr 2005 (UTC)

Clarification on Impact[edit]

One thing I hope someone could clarify... the "Impact" section says that the comet impacted Jupiter on the side hidden from earth, but that Galileo was able to observe this even though it was on it's way to Jupiter. Wouldn't that mean Galileo would also be unable to see it? Could someone clarify this, either here or on the main page, as to the path of Galileo that allowed it to see the impacts?

The Galileo spacecraft had an interesting journey to Jupiter, with gravitational slingshots past Earth twice and Venus once - essentially it approached Jupiter from the side. In any event, approaching direct from Earth would be difficult, due to the spacecraft's angular momentum. See this illustration -- ALoan (Talk) 11:34, 3 November 2005 (UTC)

picture mislabelled[edit]

The picture with the caption "A sequence of Hubble Space Telescope images showing the appearance of the fireball of the largest impact, that of fragment G" was in fact not taken by the Hubble. I believe it was taken by the galileo. A picture of Jupiter showing a partial phase like that could never be taken from Earth, or Earth orbit.

Good spot. Changed. I also I think it was W rather than G - see this and this... -- ALoan (Talk) 11:34, 3 November 2005 (UTC)

But now there's a mismatch between the article and the description on the image's page. Bazza 16:06, 15 November 2005 (UTC)


This was not the first direct observation of two celestial bodies in collision. That was in 1178 when several people in Canteberry, England observed an object collide with the moon. A monk recorded the event. Not to nit pick. The overall article is great. Dr U 01:13, 15 November 2005 (UTC)

That's not what it says here! And do you mean "Canterbury"  :-)

What SL9 orbits[edit]

I removed the bogus third sentance on SL9 orbiting Jupiter rather then the Sun and the reference that caused the confused sentance. I then replaced it with a (week) sentance trying to focus on what made SL9 interesting, the fact that it might hit Jupiter!

In fact, it was orbiting Jupiter when discovered - you can easily verify this by checking the references. User:Worldtraveller
The link to Worldtraveller is no longer useful (and would not count as a citation anyway). I want to know, was SL9 orbiting Jupiter when discovered or only for one orbit after discovery. I have put a CN tag after the statement and hopefully someone can clear this up. Rsduhamel 20:37, 8 April 2007 (UTC)
Ah, that link was part of his signature, not one of the references to which he referred. (That comment was left in November 2005.) The first reference currently in the article includes the sentence "Calculations of the orbit prior to 7 July 1992 are very uncertain but it seems very likely that the comet was previously in orbit around Jupiter for two decades or more."
I added the fact that SL9 was in orbit around Jupiter to this article back in 2004, but the reference I used at the time (which is still [web accessable]) seems to have been removed from the article since. I think it's clearer than the current reference, so I'll add it back. --Noren 16:17, 13 April 2007 (UTC)

The Cure[edit]

As I do not have much time now and I do not know where to put this trivia bit, I ask the community: On the Wild Mood Swings album (1996) The Cure had a song called 'Jupiter Crash', which commented on the crash ('Was that it?' / 'Was that the Jupiter show?' / 'It wasn't quite what I'd hoped for you know'), which is used to comment on an unsuccessful love affair. Maybe someone can add a trivia section and check the exact text? Thanks!

Zement 08:56, 15 November 2005 (UTC)

Lyrics to the song can be found here: [Link to copyvio website removed]"

I added a trivia section today. As I am not a native speaker of English, I'd like to ask that someone checks it for errors. Thanks! Zement 09:52, 16 November 2005 (UTC)

User:Worldtraveller removed the Trivia-section for being "too tangential". Do you agree? I think hat, while the article explicitely mentions the huge media attention for the event, a trivia section should be allowed. Zement 17:40, 16 November 2005 (UTC)


- "Radio observations revealed a sharp increase in continuum emission at a wavelength of 21 cm after the largest impacts ..." -

"continuum" links to a disambiguation page, and none of the referral pages there seems to be relevant. Can anyone clarify this? -- 15 NOV 2005

I've linked continuum to Black body (radiation) as the best match I can find. -Wikibob 22:29, 15 November 2005 (UTC)

Decreasing content[edit]

WorldTraveller, would you care to explain why you felt compelled to decrease the article's content? Specifically:

  • The comparison between Jupiter's Hill sphere radius and the comet's apoastron about Jupiter.
  • The Jupiter-centric eccentricity of the orbit, compared to the heliocentric value.
  • The fact that the comet's 1992 approach was well within Metis' orbit.
Urhixidur 03:58, 22 February 2006 (UTC)

Sure. I didn't actually feel compelled to 'decrease the article's content', I just felt compelled to ensure it was readable and understandable to an audience as wide as possible, and I removed those bits because

  • I had no idea what a Hill sphere was, or why it was being compared to the comet's apojove. I am an astronomer so I thought that would certainly be even more confusing for a layman.
  • Again, very confusing. I understand what was meant but I don't think most people would. I couldn't see any way of rewording it without making it overly lengthy. Also, I didn't think it was terribly important to talk about how the comet's orbit looked in the frame of reference of the Sun, as it doesn't really add anything to the reader's understanding of the comet.
  • Its significance was unclear. I've added it back now with a mention that Metis is the innermost moon.

Among the other changes I made were changing Gm to million km - this is because I think the latter is immediately understandable to a far larger number of people. This is discussed at the top of this page as well. And I removed all the redlinks to astronomers because I really think most or all of them would not warrant an article. If they do, I do too for my paper cited in Cat's Eye Nebula, and I am sure I'm not notable. Worldtraveller 11:35, 22 February 2006 (UTC)

A Hill sphere (not heard of that one either) seems to be the same as the Roche sphere (related to the Roche limit, no doubt, within which tidal disruption can be expected) - this should be explained. I have no idea why eccentricity around the Sun or Jupiter is that interesting (this is a comet: its orbit is bound to be wildly eccentric, however one looks at it). The third point is clearly related to the first and looks interesting, though. -- ALoan (Talk) 12:20, 22 February 2006 (UTC)
« ...I have no idea why eccentricity around the Sun or Jupiter is that interesting (this is a comet: its orbit is bound to be wildly eccentric, however one looks at it... »
That was the whole point of the comparison: SL9's orbit was not wildly eccentric in heliocentric terms. As is typical of short-period comets, the eccentricity was mild (about 0.2). It became very accentuated (almost 1) for two reasons: 1) as a result of the capture process and 2) only in Jupiter's frame of reference.
Urhixidur 04:53, 23 February 2006 (UTC)
Ignorance about the Hill sphere is not going to be remedied by omitting any mentions of the concept, now is it? There is an article that describes it, so fresh knowledge is just a click away. (Sarcasm off) It is indeed closely related to Roche's work, and any considerations of orbital capture unavoidably deal with it. To speak of the comet being in orbit about Jupiter is just another way of saying it is wholly within Jupiter's Hill sphere. All right, I'll try adding a paragraph that explains these bits in better fashion. Not that it matters, but I also hold an M.Sc. in Astronomy.
Urhixidur 04:13, 23 February 2006 (UTC)
Okay, done. Interestingly, source 1 has SL9 be a Jupiter inner-grazer before the capture, whilst source 17 has it an outer-grazer after the capture. This may not be a contradiction (the swap may be part of the capture process), but until we can get our hands on a copy of source 1, I changed the paragraph so it gives a more geometry-neutral explanation.
Urhixidur 04:47, 23 February 2006 (UTC)
Fine - clearly I was displaying my ignorance of solar system astronomy ;) As you say, not that it matters, but if academic credentials are at all relevant, Worldtraveller and I both have doctorates in astronomy (mine, ahem, some time ago, before I started doing something less worthwhile...) Your fuller explanations are excellent. Well done. -- ALoan (Talk) 10:35, 23 February 2006 (UTC)

rate of cometary impacts?[edit]

I've changed this claim: rate of cometary impacts on Jupiter is thought to be between two and ten times higher than the rate on Earth [15] because it was contradicted by the source it cites: for Jupiter-interacting comets of greater than 1 km diameter, a Jupiter impact takes place every 500-1000 yr, and an Earth impact every 2-4 Myr. Now every 500 to 1000 years is a rate 2 to 8 thousand times higher than the rate on Earth. Even so, out of curiosity, is a two thousand times impact rate lower or higher than would be expected from Jupiter's greater mass and capture cross-section? It orbits at 13 km/sec, compared to Earth's 29 km/sec, has 121 Earth's area, so ignoring gravity it looks like Jupiter should sweep up 55 times more objects. I've no idea how to estimate the gravity effects, but suspect that the cited rate is somehow greater than would be expected. -Wikianon 13:04, 3 October 2006 (UTC)

sources and details[edit]

I know someone is going to say, "go edit yourself". The bottom line is that I don't have sufficient time to do it well right now. However, there are quite a few small errors in the article. For example, the best models put the progenitor comet at 2 km, and the largest pieces at 0.5 km. The waves predicted included both seismic (compressional) and gravity (buoyancy) waves. The observed waves were likely the latter, as the former go much faster and have a non-constant speed (or rather the speed of their intersection with the visible surface is non-constant). Shocks were also observed. I wrote a review article for this event in 2004, and am one of the few investigators still working on it. You can get the review article here: Changes between this and the final proof were minor. That's not a permanent URL, so please don't link to it. The publication reference is:

Harrington, J., I. de Pater, S. H. Brecht, D. Deming, V. S. Meadows, K. Zahnle, and P. D. Nicholson 2004. Lessons from Shoemaker-Levy 9 about Jupiter and planetary impacts. In F. Bagenal, T. E. Dowling, and W. McKinnon (Eds.), Jupiter: Planet, Satellites & Magnetosphere, pp. 159-­184. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

--jh-- Joeharr4 04:21, 11 May 2007 (UTC)

I looked for this article while looking for Eugene Shoemaker's name. I was a little surprised the "Discovery" section did not list the discoverers by name. Shoe has his own wiki page: I'll see what else I can find on this, and may update it myself when I have the moxy. Tomligon (talk) 02:10, 22 January 2008 (UTC)

Shoemaker-Levy 9 Impacting Earth instead?[edit]

Is there any scientific speculation on the impact to Earth had Shoemaker-Levy 9 hit us instead? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 10:19, 3 November 2007 (UTC)

An old question, but the short answer is "catastrophic." A greater than 2-kilometer wide body hitting the planet at 37 miles/sec??? "We believe it was a comet or asteroid measuring perhaps a few hundred meters wide," says Don Yeomans of NASA's Near-Earth Object Office at JPL. "If something of similar size hit Earth—we're talking about 2000 megatons of energy--there would be serious regional devastation or a tsunami if it hit the ocean." Please note that other astronomers estimated that pieces of SL-9 were in the 2 kilometer range. HammerFilmFan (talk) 18:12, 16 July 2012 (UTC)

10 July 2008 changes to lead[edit]

I've made a series of small changes to the lead in an attempt to improve how it scans and remove redundancy. One edit removes the words "described as" thus changing an opinion to a fact. If it's an opinon, it was lazy wording anyway and needs attribution anyway, but I want to ensure I don't accidentally label opinion as truth. 0_o
brenneman 00:26, 10 July 2008 (UTC)

Jupiter showing SL9 impact sites.jpg
I think it was a somewhat awkward way of saying that while they were somewhat smaller than the Spot they had far greater color contrast. "more easily visible" seems rather subjective in this case. How should the spots in the picture on the left be described? --Noren (talk) 13:45, 10 July 2008 (UTC)

"Space debris"?[edit]

From the lead section: "The collision provided new information about Jupiter and highlighted its role in reducing space debris in the inner solar system." However the "space debris" article explicitly refers only to man-made objects. Axl (talk) 20:04, 16 July 2008 (UTC)

In the section Jupiter as a "cosmic vacuum cleaner" it says "Recently, however, it has been shown that the presence of a smaller planet at Jupiter's position". This sounds as if it is giving a contrasting position. But in fact that paragraph is just supporting the statements of the previous two paragraphs. BLW 21 December 2010

And in "A planet of Jupiter's mass still seems to provide increased protection against asteroids, but the total effect on all orbital bodies within the solar system is unclear." the purpose of "still" and "but" are unclear. BLW 21 December 2010 —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:17, 22 December 2010 (UTC)

1992? 1994?[edit]

The third paragraph states that SL9 passed within Jupiter's Roche limit in July 1992, and goes on to state that the fragments collided in July 1994.

Given that the second paragraph says it was discovered in 1993, I think the '92 date may be an error. Don't know though, and not sure how to research it. Perhaps someone more knowledgeable than myself can look into this. MichaelCaricofe (talk) 04:35, 26 August 2009 (UTC)

It is correct. The comet was discovered after it had split. -- Kheider (talk) 12:05, 26 August 2009 (UTC)


The text includes "the planet's Roche limit, inside which tidal forces are strong enough to disrupt a body held together only by gravity.".

That could be misleading.

The Roche distance is not a property of the planet alone; it depends on the ratio of the densities of the planet and the body. See the Roche limit article, etc. (talk) 22:12, 28 February 2010 (UTC)

Isn't it a MOON?[edit]

Surely a "comet orbiting Jupiter" would be more correctly known as a MOON of Jupiter? (talk) 17:39, 11 August 2010 (UTC)

Not really. The proper term is "temporary satellite capture (TSC)". -- Kheider (talk) 15:37, 12 August 2010 (UTC)


In the grand tradition of the magazine Nature, astonishingly inaccurate predictions were published, while prescient ones were ignored. Bill Bryson tells the story in a "A Short History of Nearly Everything." An article was published entitled "The Big Fizzle Is Coming," which is available here.

The author confidently predicts an estimate that is more than 600 times less than what actually occurred. I don't feel like editing the section but maybe someone else does, as well adding to the "Criticisms" section of the Nature article if there is such a section.

Here is the relevant quote from Short History: "One week before the impact, Nature ran an article, "The Big Fizzle is Coming," predicting that the impact would constitute nothing more than a meteor shower....One fragment, known as Nucleus G, struck with the force of about six million megatons." The math is my own, but note that this is one fragment out of 21, so the magnitude of wrongness is far greater. [Bryson, Page 202, Random House, 2003.]

Allow me to further note that "cautious" is not a descriptor that can be applied to adjectives and phrases such as "thus," "will be," and "far less... than some have predicted." So much for the universally applied label "prestigious" to Nature, which frequently rejects methodical papers that don't comport with religiously held orthodox views. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 04:15, 24 June 2011 (UTC)

Request move[edit]

Since this affects multiple pages, I have moved this to the manual of style.Wikipedia_talk:Manual_of_Style#comet_names Wikipedia_talk:Manual_of_Style/Archive_125#comet_names. --Enric Naval (talk) 11:52, 25 August 2011 (UTC)

Requested move[edit]

The following discussion is an archived discussion of a requested move. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on the talk page. Editors desiring to contest the closing decision should consider a move review. No further edits should be made to this section.

The result of the move request was: speedy close, knowingly counter to MOS and disruptive. -- JHunterJ (talk) 19:32, 2 December 2012 (UTC)

Comet Shoemaker–Levy 9Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 – Spelling. Per the IAU comets are spelled with spaces and hyphens, not dashes. Apteva (talk) 09:23, 1 December 2012 (UTC)


Feel free to state your position on the renaming proposal by beginning a new line in this section with *'''Support''' or *'''Oppose''', then sign your comment with ~~~~. Since polling is not a substitute for discussion, please explain your reasons, taking into account Wikipedia's policy on article titles.
  • Oppose; we follow our own style guide for punctuation and do not blindly follow "official" formatting. Powers T 17:08, 1 December 2012 (UTC)
    • No, we have no reason to incorrectly use dashes where hyphens are correctly used. Doing otherwise is just plain ridiculous. Per WP:TITLE, which is what determines titles, not the MOS, we follow common use. Does anyone really not understand how ridiculous it sounds to say we "do not blindly follow 'official' formatting"? That is not formatting, that is spelling - the choice of a character to form a name. Sure in some cases we use common use instead of official spelling, but those are the two and only two choices - official spelling or common use. What we now have is neither. What we have is a misspelling which serves no purpose in an encyclopedia. Apteva (talk) 18:47, 1 December 2012 (UTC)
  • Oppose and close this discussion. A clear consensus was reached just a few months ago and no new arguments have been presented as to why that consensus should be overturned. The nominator seems to be doing everything possible to ensure a ban. Phil Bridger (talk) 17:30, 1 December 2012 (UTC)
    • No, a small number of editors decided to put an error into the MOS. That is not consensus. That error is now being discussed, and needs to be corrected. No, the nominator is interested in one and only one goal - the improvement of Wikipedia. Those voting to oppose the move, clearly have something other than improvement of Wikipedia in mind. Apteva (talk) 18:47, 1 December 2012 (UTC)
      • That "error" has already been discussed many times, and a far smaller number of editors has considered it an error than not. Nobody is asking you to change your opinion, but simply to stop disrupting Wikipedia by continually describing others' opinions as errors, and trying to force your opinion on everyone else when consensus has been made perfectly clear. Phil Bridger (talk) 19:05, 1 December 2012 (UTC)
        • No one is being forced to do anything. The question is, should the article be moved to be spelled what our guidelines and policy say it should be named, or should we leave it at the current title? Hopefully more editors will support the move than oppose the move, but it never hurts to find ot. Apteva (talk) 04:59, 2 December 2012 (UTC)
  • Oppose as disruptive. Apteva has failed to convince the community centrally, so he's now trying article by article. — kwami (talk) 02:10, 2 December 2012 (UTC)
    • That's not really what I would call a valid reason for supporting or opposing a move. And it can never be called disruptive to correct a spelling error. Apteva (talk) 05:01, 2 December 2012 (UTC)
Consensus is that it is not a spelling error, but a stylistic variant. This has been discussed ad nauseum, and you have failed to persuade anyone. Continuing here what you have failed to achieve elsewhere is what's disruptive. — kwami (talk) 08:38, 2 December 2012 (UTC)


Any additional comments:
You know that is not true, or you would have continued the discussions at MOS and TITLE. — kwami (talk) 08:39, 2 December 2012 (UTC)
The above discussion is preserved as an archive of a requested move. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on this talk page or in a move review. No further edits should be made to this section.

Angular Measurements?[edit]

In the Discovery section, it says: "...comet Shoemaker–Levy 9 was an unusual comet, as it appeared to show multiple nuclei in an elongated region about 50 arcseconds long and 10 arcseconds wide." It goes on to say that "the comet lay only about 4 degrees from Jupiter as seen from Earth." Why is it using angular measurement units for distance? Ethg242 (talk) 23:05, 27 January 2014 (UTC)