Cosmic fireworks

JUPITER will be the site of violent activity when fragments of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 hit the planet in the second or third week of July. The once-in-a-millenium event will offer astronomers a grand 6-day fireworks spectacle.

The comet, now broken up into 21 large chunks, will bombard the planet and the impact will be greater than any nuclear bomb explosion. The impact is expected to be so large and the flashes so bright that light will reflect off the Jupiter moons. Some of this light will fall within the visible or infra-red wavelengths and could be tracked by astronomers.

Studying the event could provide scientists an insight into the planet's structure.