Co-Discoverer Of Jupiter-Impacting Comet Discusses His Comet Hunting Career

Apr 10, 2018

In March 1993, astronomers Eugene and Carolyn Shoemaker and David Levy discovered a comet that was on a course to impact Jupiter.  Shoemaker-Levy 9 impacted the planet in July 1994 — the first planetary impact by a comet observed in human history.  Originally from Montreal, Dr. David Levy has hosted an astronomy camp in the Adirondacks for 15 years in conjunction with SUNY Plattsburgh and periodically visits the northern New York college campus.  While in Plattsburgh Monday, Levy talked with WAMC’s North Country Bureau Chief Pat Bradley about his comet discoveries.

“I actually have discovered 23 comets in my career. Thirteen of them are Shoemaker-Levy comets. Gene Shoemaker, Carolyn Shoemaker and I were working together for a number of years and we found the 13 comets. The others are mine found visually with my eye looking through the telescope or with Tom Glinos who is a colleague of mine who had a telescope and he found, he’s been finding asteroids. But not bothering to check them very well. And one of those asteroids turned out to be a comet. And according to the rules when he discovers a comet but he doesn’t know it’s a comet the comet doesn’t get his name on it. Instead the comet is named for the observatory at which it is discovered which is our Jarnac Observatory. Could you imagine my grandfather now? He was passionate about his cottage in Jarnac north of Montreal.  That’s what it’s named after. And if he only knew that there is a comet going through the solar system with Jarnac’s name on it I mean he would be just dancing a jig!”

We’ll have more later this week and at wamc.org with Dr. David Levy on his talk with SUNY Plattsburgh students about the link between literature and the night sky.