A NASA Hubble Space Telescope image of approximately 20 objects that comprise comet P/Shoemaker-Levy 9, giving it the resemblance of a "string of pearls." The comet is hurtling toward a July 1994 collision with the giant planet Jupiter.
Hubble's high resolution shows that the comet's nuclei are much smaller than originally estimated from observations with ground-based telescopes. The Hubble observations show that the nuclei are probably less than three miles (5 km) across, as opposed to earlier estimates of nine miles (14 km).
The amount of energy unleashed into the Jovian atmosphere in July 1994 depends on the nuclear sizes, so these HST images provide important information for those seeking to predict the effects of the collisions on Jupiter's atmosphere.
This image was taken with the Wide Field and Planetary Camera (WFPC), in PC mode, on July 1, 1993.
Credit: Dr. H. A. Weaver and Mr. T. E. Smith, STScI