A Cosmic Event. But Will You Feel Jupiter Move? With AM-Comet Collision, Bjt
Jul. 15, 1994
PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ Backyard astronomers will train telescopes on Jupiter, hoping for a glimpse of the cosmic show when the Shoemaker-Levy 9 comet begins crashing into the planet on Saturday.
Alas, they probably won't see much, a fact that hasn't dimmed the enthusiasm of people snapping up telescopes and signing up for special programs at their local planetariums around the country.
''People love explosion and destruction,'' said Pete Dorofy, a science demonstrator at the Franklin Institute's Fels Planetarium in Philadelphia, the largest public planetarium in the United States.
The comet will strike the side of Jupiter facing away from Earth. The pros will use highly sensitive equipment to detect the effects, or study images beamed from galactic travelers like the Hubble Space Telescope.
The dim facts haven't hurt those who cater to the rest of us. Edmund Scientific Co., a New Jersey telescope retailer, posted a 500 percent jump in June sales over June 1993.
''It's a chance in a lifetime to watch the largest planet in the solar system when something that's never happened before takes place,'' said John Reed, a member of the Amateur Telescope Makers of Boston in Westford, Mass.
''It's one of those times when the hobby that we love to share with everybody shows us something new and unusual,'' he said.
Fels has scheduled daily programs dubbed ''Jupiter's Greatest Hits'' for visitors looking to witness the effects of the crash.
Planetarium workshops demonstrating how to use telescopes have doubled to 50 in recent weeks.
In Utah, the Salt Lake Astronomical Society will hold four days of ''Comet Crunch Watches'' beginning Saturday.
Nightly events will include a showing of the planetarium's new short film, ''Collision Watch,'' followed by a film commemorating the 1969 moon landing.
The Museum of Science in Boston is sponsoring several space-related events over the next week, including a Star Party on July 22 when telescopes will be set up on the roof of the garage.
In New York City, the parks department and the Amateur Astronomers' Association will set up eight to 10 telescopes in the Central Park Sheep Meadow on Monday and Tuesday nights.
James Cornell, a spokesman for the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, hates to spoil the fun but warns that amateurs might be disappointed.
''It's going to be very exciting to science - we just won't be able to see it,'' Cornell said. ''It will diminish somewhat the educational value because it won't be observed directly.''