Solar System Research

, Volume 38, Issue 3, pp 219–227 | Cite as

Estimation of the Nucleus Size of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 under the Assumption of Its Step-by-Step Disintegration

  • M. D. Zamarashkina
  • Yu. D. Medvedev


The orbital dynamics of comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 was considered. The size of the nucleus before its disintegration was estimated using positional observations of individual fragments of the comet and taking into account the time when the fragment falls on Jupiter were observed. The center of inertia of the parent body was assumed to coincide with the center of fragment H at the moment of disintegration. The diameter of the parent body was estimated under different assumptions about the moments of disintegration. Thus, if the nucleus of the comet was disintegrated at the moment when fragment H was passing the perijovion, the diameter of the nucleus is equal to 1.39 km; if the nucleus was disintegrated two hours before the perijovion passage, the estimate of the nucleus diameter must be increased up to 9.03 km. The period of revolution of the comet nucleus was estimated assuming that the comet rotated about the axis perpendicular to its orbital plane. The calculations allowed us to assume that fragmentation of the nucleus began approximately an hour before the comet passed the perijovion and the diameter of the parent nucleus was about 4 km.


Orbital Plane Parent Body Comet Nucleus Nucleus Size Parent Nucleus 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Asphaug, E. and Benz, W., Size, Density, and Structure of Comet Shoemaker—Levy 9 Inferred from the Physics of Tidal Breakup, Icarus, 1996, vol. 121,no. 1, pp. 225–248.Google Scholar
  2. Bettin, R.H., Astronautical Guidance, McGraw-Hill, 1964.Google Scholar
  3. Borovička, J. and Spurny, P., Radiation Study of Two Very Bright Terrestrial Bodies and an Application to the Comet S-L 9 Collision with Jupiter, Icarus, 1996, vol. 121,no. 2, pp. 484–510.Google Scholar
  4. Chernetenko, Y.A., Medvedev, Y.D., Estimate of the Shoemaker—Levy 9 Nucleus Size from Position Observations, Planet. Space Sci., 1994, vol. 42,no. 1, pp. 95–96.Google Scholar
  5. Chodas, P.W. and Yeomans, D.K., The Orbital Motion and Impact Circumstances of Comet Shoemaker—Levy 9, private communication, 1996.Google Scholar
  6. Churyumov, K.I., Kleshchonok, V.V., and Reut, I.V., Light Echoes from Europa and Io during Events of Shoemaker—Levy 9 A and Q Fireballs in the Jupiter Atmosphere and Possible Origin of Comet SL-9, Astron. Astrophys. Trans., 1997, vol. 13,no. 3, pp. 205–213.Google Scholar
  7. Crawford, D.A., Boslough, M.B., Trucano, T.G., et al., Comet Shoemaker—Levy 9 Plumes and Ejecta: Constraints on Impactor Size and Penetration Depth, Bull. Am. Astron. Soc., 1995, vol. 27,no. 3, p. 1114.Google Scholar
  8. Hahn, J.M. and Retting, T.W., Comet Shoemaker—Levy 9 Dust Size and Velocity Disturbation, Icarus, 2000, vol. 146,no. 2, pp. 501–513.Google Scholar
  9. Hammel, H.B., Beebe, R.F., Ingersoll, A.P., et al., HST Imaging of Atmospheric Phenomena Created by the Impact of Comet Shoemaker—Levy 9, Science, 1995, vol. 267, pp. 1288–1295.Google Scholar
  10. Harris, A.W., Effects of Shape and Spin on the Tidal Disruption of P/Shoemaker—Levy 9, Earth, Moon, Planets, 1996, vol. 72,nos. 1–3, pp. 113–117.Google Scholar
  11. Jewett, D., Luu, J., and Chen, J., Physical Properties of Split Comet Shoemaker—Levy 9 with Jupiter, Bull. Am. Astron. Soc., 1993, vol. 25,no. 3, p. 1042.Google Scholar
  12. Linnik, Yu.V., Metod naimen'shikh kvadratov i osnovy obrabotki nablyudenii (Least-Squares Method and Fundamentals of Observation Processing), Moscow: Fizmatgiz, 1958.Google Scholar
  13. Meadows, V., Crisp, D., Barnes, J., et al., AAT Observations of the SL9 Fragment C, D, G, K, N, R, V and W Impacts with Jupiter: Lightcurves and Imaging, Icarus, 2001, vol. 152,no. 2, pp. 366–383.Google Scholar
  14. Mosser, B., Galdemard, P., Lagage, P., et al., Impact Seismology: a Search for Primary Pressure Waves Following Impact A and H, Icarus, 1996, vol. 121,no. 2, pp. 331–340.Google Scholar
  15. Olson, K.M. and Mamma, M.J., Simulations of the Breakup and Dynamical Evolution of Comet Shoemaker—Levy 9 Employing a Swarm Model, Bull. Am. Astron. Soc., 1994, vol. 26, pp. 1574–1575.Google Scholar
  16. Roulston, M.S. and Ahrens, T.J., Impact Mechanics and Frequency of SL9-Type Events on Jupiter, Icarus, 1997, vol. 126,no. 1, pp. 138–147.Google Scholar
  17. Scotti, J.V. and Melosh, H.J., Estimate of the Size of Comet Shoemaker—Levy 9 from a Tidal Breakup Model, Nature, 1993, vol. 365, pp. 733–735.Google Scholar
  18. Sekanina, Z., Chodas, P.W., and Yeomans, D.K., Secondary Fragmentation of Comet Shoemaker—Levy 9 and the Ramifications for the Progenitor's Breakup in July 1992, Planet. Space Sci., 1998, vol. 46,no. 1, pp. 21–45.Google Scholar
  19. Sekanina, Z., Evidence on Sizes and Fragmentation of the Nuclei of Comet Shoemaker—Levy 9 from Hubble Space Telescope Images, Astron. Astrophys., 1995, vol. 304,no. 1, pp. 296–316.Google Scholar
  20. Shenk, P.M., Asphaug, E., McKinnon, W.B., et al., Cometary Nuclei and Tidal Disruption: the Geologic Record of Crater Chains on Callisto and Ganymede, Icarus, 1996, vol. 121,no. 2, pp. 249–274.Google Scholar
  21. Solem, J.C., Cometary Breakup Calculations Based on a Gravitationally-Bound Agglomerated Model: the Density and Size of Shoemaker—Levy 9, Astron. Astrophys., 1995, vol. 302,no. 2, pp. 596–608.Google Scholar
  22. Takata, T.T. and Ahrens, T.J., Impact of Comet Shoemaker—Levy 9—Size, Origin, and Plumes: Comparison of Numerical Analysis with Observations, Icarus, 1997, vol. 125,no. 2, pp. 317–330.Google Scholar
  23. Weaver, H.A., A'Hearn, M.F., Arpigny, C., et al., The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) Observing Campaign on Comet Shoemaker—Levy 9, Science, 1995, vol. 267, pp. 1237–1392.Google Scholar
  24. Weissman, P.R., Are Cometary Nuclei Primordial Rubble Pies?, Nature, 1986, vol. 320, pp. 242–244.Google Scholar
  25. Weissman, P.R., If It Quacks like a Comet..., Icarus, 1996, vol. 121,no. 2, pp. 275–280.Google Scholar
  26. Zahnle, K. and McLow, M.M., The Collision of Jupiter and Comet Shoemaker—Levy 9, Icarus, 1994, vol. 108,no. 1, pp. 1–17.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© MAIK “Nauka/Interperiodica” 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. D. Zamarashkina
    • 1
  • Yu. D. Medvedev
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Applied AstronomyRussian Academy of SciencesSt. PetersburgRussia

Personalised recommendations