Tidal disruption of comet P/Shoemaker-Levy 9

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Session 25 -- Solar System and Heliosphere
Oral presentation, Wednesday, January 12, 10:15-11:45, Salon VI Room (Crystal Gateway)

[25.02] Tidal disruption of comet P/Shoemaker-Levy 9

James V. Scotti (U of Az)

Periodic comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 was discovered on March 25, 1993 and was immediately recognized as peculiar in appearance by the discoverers. The unusual appearance was confirmed and the train of nuclei were noted in the first CCD images of the comet obtained by the author on March 26, within hours of the initial discovery of the comet. Observations of the comet between March 26 and July 23 1993 have been used to construct a simple model of tidal disruption (Scotti \& Melosh, 1993; Melosh \& Schenk, 1993) and to estimate the diameter of the progenitor of the comet as having been about 2.3 kilometers in diameter. The observed and predicted behaviour of the comet will be discussed here. It is estimated that the 20-odd observed nuclei will strike Jupiter over a 5.6 day interval centered on about July 21 1994 UT. Additionally, backwards integration of the best orbit for the comet and an ensamble of similar orbits (whose elements are within the present estimated uncertainties) suggests that the progenitor may have been captured into orbit about Jupiter in 1970-1971, but a substantial fraction of the ensamble of orbits remained in Jovian orbit for the duration of the integration, backwards some 80 years from the present.

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