Small Fragments of Comet P/Shoemaker-Levy 9

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Session 43 -- SL-9, Comets, Solar System
Display presentation, Tuesday, 10, 1995, 9:20am - 6:30pm

[43.04] Small Fragments of Comet P/Shoemaker-Levy 9

P.R.Kesten, G.F.Gutierrez (SCU), M.Haken, P.J.T.Leonard (UMd)

We have tested the hypothesis that a significant number of ``small'' fragments (diameters of 100 to 300 m) existed in the debris train of comet P/Shoemaker-Levy 9 (S-L 9). Since the material in the WSW trail of S-L 9 was to strike the near side of Jupiter between July 27 and September 22 (Sekanina, Chodas and Yeomans 1994), our strategy was to search for near-side bolide flashes, plumes and fireballs in late July and early August. One candidate event was detected on July 29 at 5:09 UT using the 16-inch refractor at the Ricard Memorial Observatory of Santa Clara University. The event was a luminous point source near the Jovian morning terminator surrounded by a darker region, and was visible on consecutive CCD exposures separated in time by 10 s. The event occurred at a Jovicentric latitude of 45 degrees south, and at a longitude of 130 degrees (System III), which is between the sites of impacts E and H. We have nicknamed this possible impact event ``X'', since it followed fragment W. Interpretations of ``X'' include 1) a reflection off a commonplace Jovian cloud moving across the morning terminator, 2) a reflection off a cloud related to one of the previous impacts, 3) a meteor storm in progress, 4) a reflection off a plume from a fresh impact, or 5) a fireball from an impact in progress. Estimates of the total number of ``small'' fragments in the WSW trail of S-L 9 have been made based on the detection of one and zero impacts. Additional data sets are being examined in an attempt to confirm and interpret ``X'', and to obtain additional evidence of ``small'' impacts. At the very least, we hope to extend the baseline of null detections.

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