Catastrophic collisions have shaped the destiny of the Solar System, and perhaps humankind. In 1994, a series of massive explosions on Jupiter occurred after the remnants of a fractured comet plunged into that planet's atmosphere.
Dr Heidi B Hammel led the Hubble Space Telescope team that tracked these explosions. When an Australian amateur astronomer, Anthony Wesley, shocked the astronomical community with the discovery of a fresh impact site on Jupiter just 15 years later, Dr Hammel again led a Hubble team making observations of the resulting massive black explosion site, obtaining the first science observations with Hubble after its servicing mission. Two more giant explosions have since been seen on Jupiter.
In this public presentation, Dr Hammel will explain what happened on Jupiter during these cosmic collisions. The events all differed in ways that give astronomers clues to the why the explosions occurred, and whether they might happen again. More importantly, she will explain the implications of such cosmic collisions for us here on Earth.
Dr Hammel has won praise for her engaging public speaking, including the American Astronomical Society's Carl Sagan Medal and the San Francisco Exploratorium's Public Understanding of Science Award. Her science studies focus on the atmospheres of the giant planets in our Solar System, using the Hubble Space Telescope, the Keck Observatory, and other facilities around the world. She serves as the Executive Vice President of AURA, a consortium of universities and institutions that operates facilities at the forefront of astronomical research.