Cosmic crash overwhelms telescope
Steve Connor is the Science Editor of The Independent. He has won many awards for his journalism, including five-times winner of the prestigious British science writers’ award; the David Perlman Award of the American Geophysical Union; twice commended as specialist journalist of the year in the UK Press Awards; UK health journalist of the year and a special merit award of the European School of Oncology for his investigative journalism. He has a degree in zoology from the University of Oxford and has a special interest in genetics and medical science, human evolution and origins, climate change and the environment.
Tuesday 19 July 1994
The sensitive infra-red detectors of the Keck Telescope on Mount Mauna Kea in Hawaii were almost saturated by the signals received from fragment G, the largest yet to collide with Jupiter, a spokesman for Nasa, the United States space agency said yesterday.
'The signals were absolutely spectacular. The image of the impact became as bright as Jupiter itself.' Scientists estimated that fragment G was about 3km across, he said. Astronomers have been overwhelmed by the size of the impacts. They had feared that the 21 fragments of the comet would spilt into further pieces before crashing into Jupiter's frozen atmosphere making the collisions difficult to see from Earth.
Imke de Pater, an astronomer at the Keck Observatory, said: 'The plume from fragment G just overwhelmed anything we had seen before. It's truly, truly remarkable.'
Eugene Shoemaker, a scientist at the US Geological Survey and co-discover of the comet, said: 'If (the much smaller) fragment A had hit North America, it's likely it would have made a crater 20 kilometres (12 miles) in diameter.' He estimated that the energy released by fragment G was equal to about 250 million megatons of TNT - equivalent to about 12 billion Hiroshimas - and created temperatures of more than 16,600C. 'The energy released is beyond our experiences on Earth,' said Lucy McFadden, a University of Maryland astronomer.
A giant piece of the comet even larger than fragment G is expected to hit the planet tomorrow.
Britain's top vet sparks controversy with call for ban on slashing animals' throats in 'ritual' slaughters for halal and kosher meat products
Exclusive: Impact of immigrants on British workers ‘negligible’
Katie Hopkins continues campaign to become Britain's most hated talking head with poorly timed Bob Crow tweet
Ukraine crisis: Russia pledges to 'retaliate against sanctions' as Ukrainian president says Crimea vote will not be recognised
The quiet diplomat: Catherine Ashton - recognised and admired in all the world’s troubled countries, yet ridiculed at home
Grace Dent: Who cares if she spells it Barraco Barner? Gemma Worrall is more employable than some bookish arts graduate
- 2 Family forced to flee home after discovering 'terrifying' nest of spiders in bananas
- 3 First Kiss: Filmmaker gets 20 strangers to make out on YouTube with awkward results
£20000 - £25000 per annum: Inspiring Interns: One of the largest mobile advert...
£20000 - £23000 per annum: Inspiring Interns: Our client specialises in creati...
£30000 - £50000 per annum + Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: Private Cli...
£30000 - £35000 per annum + Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: Residential...