Comet Shoemaker-Levy-9's collision with Jupiter

In 1994 comet Shoemaker-Levy 9
collided with the gas giant Jupiter.
The resulting photos were austere,
divine, lovely, and, at times, comic.
The 21 fragments raining through
the colorful bands of gas roiled
forces visible in light, gravity
the infrared, and love. Love?
Yes, love, for scientists snickered
over one cloud curved into
a pink and perfect heart,
a Jovian valentine, cute as
any "Be Mine" fourth graders
might slip in one another's desk.
Coincidence, science said, using
the heart to coldly grab more
press, then casting it aside. Aside,
that is, until Shoemaker-Levy 14
was bent from its cometary arc
by the gas god's gravity, hurled
across the Earth's path unexpected.
Backtracking this snowball, NASA
found it the fifth such comet thrown
untimely from its arc after
passing Jup's big red spot.
The conclusion's obvious.
Jupiter's big but not too smart.
How do you get the erotic attention
of one so large and gassy except
with deep impact across the storms.
Once elbowed, through, Jupiter's
responded in kind, twisting
a flurry of snowloveballs our
way, hoping to raise similar
valentine clouds in our troposphere.
We have, it seems, few options.
One: pretend we love another. (How?)
Two: send a mission to discussing dating.
Three: shape SDI into cometary
restraining orders. Those work so well.
Or four: wait for Shoemaker-Levy 17
to joyously strike home, giving
us undeniable evidence of Jovian
love, and, quite coincidentally,
a roiling, catastrophic, death.

Copyright © 2006, Greg Beatty

Image Credit: Hubble Space Telescope Comet Team and NASA

Greg Beatty has a Ph.D. in English from the University of Iowa, where he wrote a dissertation on serial killer novels. He attended Clarion West 2000, and any rumors you've heard about his time there are, unfortunately, probably true. Greg writes everything from science fiction poetry (winning a Rhysling last year) to reviews of books that don't exist. When he's not writing, Greg teaches for the University of Phoenix Online. Greg recently got married.