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Aftermath of a comet's impact with Jupiter.

Hubble Space Telescope Comet Team and NASA

Astronomers witnessed a rare event in 1994 when they watched the shattered Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 smash into Jupiter piece by piece. This was the first time scientists knew in advance where to train their sights to view the collision of two bodies in space.

The comet broke apart before striking Jupiter. (See the approaching fragments in the inset, above.) The pieces exploded as they streaked through Jupiter's atmosphere, creating a line of dark smudges across the bottom of the planet, as revealed in this Hubble image.

Some of the impact sites.