Friday, July 17, 2009

Remembering Apollo, a Comet Crash & Eugene Shoemaker

Yesterday, July 16th was the 40th anniversary of the liftoff of the Apollo 11 Mission. NPR had a wonderful story on the role of the USGS's astrogeology team in the training of the Apollo astronauts. Click on over to see and hear One Small Town's Big Role In The Apollo Missions.

Some of the time in the story is devoted to Eugene Shoemaker, the father of astrogeology. Gene was an astronaut hopeful, but a medical condition kept him grounded, but without his hard work and guidence the Apollo missions would not have been as scientifically productive as they were. If you visit the NPR page, in addition to listening to or reading the story, be sure to watch the USGS film on rocketpacks. It is fantastic.

Running the story on July 16th, not only marked the Apollo 11 anniversary, but also the anniversary of the first impact of the fragments of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 with Jupiter back in 1994. Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 was discovered at Palomar in 1993 with the 18-inch Schmidt.

The impact of the cometary fragments with Jupiter was one of more important astronomical events of the 20th Century. This animation gives a rapid look at the comet crashes which lasted from July 16 - 22, 1994. The animation does indeed give a proper sense of the affects of the impacts that resulted in Jupiter's atmosphere. Many of the dark clouds that appeared from the impacts were larger than Earth.

If you want to learn more about the amazing life of Eugene Shoemaker, I highly recommend David H. Levy's book Shoemaker By Levy. It is a wonderful, personal look at Gene and his scientific career.

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