Friday, July 18, 2014

Jupiter, Shoemaker-Levy 9, and cool science

Article: Take That, Jupiter! Planet's Great Comet Crash of 1994 Recalled

I was already teaching earth science when this happened. The local PBS channel had a "talking heads" panel consisting of both Shoemakers, Levy, and several other scientists. One of them was a man who studied Jupiter's atmosphere. The show was displaying pictures from, I believe, the Hubble Space Telescope.

The impacts were on a part of Jupiter turned away from the Earth. However, Jupiter was rotating towards the earth, so that the impact sites quickly turned into view.

The moderator had lead a lot of discussion with the Shoemakers and Levy when he turned to the atmospheric scientist and asked something like, "Has this answered any of the questions you have had about Jupiter's atmosphere?"

As I remember, he jumped up and said he was not as interested in the answers, but in the new questions the data he was getting was generating. As close as I can remember, he said, "Cool science always generates more questions."

For a scientist, questions are foundational. And for this one, they were where the fun was at.

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