Discover the cosmos! Each day we feature a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.
July 13, 1995
A String Of Pearls
Picture Credit: NASA, Hubble Space Telescope (courtesy of H. Weaver)
Explanation: Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9, named after its co-discoverers, was often referred to as the "string of pearls" comet. It is famous for its unusual appearance as well as its collision with the planet Jupiter! The comet's original single nucleus was torn to pieces by Jupiter's strong gravity during a close encounter with the solar system's largest planet in 1992. The pieces are seen in this composite of Hubble Space Telescope images to be "pearls" strung out along the comet's orbital path. In July of 1994 these pieces collided with Jupiter in a unique and spectacular series of events.
For more information about the picture see the Split Comet Studies Page.