The Great Chilean Adventure of July 1994

including a long stay at Cerro Tololo during the SL9 impacts on Jupiter

which was certainly the most explosive week in the solar system in astronomy's history

Das große Chile-Abenteuer vom Juli 1994 - mit den Impakten von SL9 auf Jupiter

In the southern winter of 1994 the author spent five weeks in Chile, drafted there - as an astronomy writer and amateur astronomer - to contribute to data taking with a small radio telescope at the Cerro Tololo Interamerican Observatory (CTIO) for someone's PHD thesis. The stay on the mountain coincided with the final days that broken comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 could still be observed and then the week when its fragments hit Jupiter. As it would turn out, Cerro Tololo was one of the prime observing sites for this rare event, with numerous observers present and most telescopes employed for this task. The author inevitably became an 'embedded reporter' - though the reports at the time, both about the travel adventures in Chile before and after and about the impacts and their consequences, were sent only to a handful recipients then (as were status reports on the actual observing run at the radio dish).

Here, for the first time, they are all online on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of these momentous events, only slightly edited for spelling errors, formatting and brevity when it comes to long tables of predicted times; also all e-mail addresses have been deleted. The travel reports are all in German, the SL9 reports in German when it comes to the author's own observations at CTIO (of fellow astronomers and the impacts' aftermath) and reports from Cambridge, Mass., by Susanne Huettermeister who had facilitated the whole adventure. But they have been augmented a great deal by reports in English from the SL9 observers at CTIO and elsewhere around the globe and in space, distributed through numerous mailing lists and other communication systems popular at the time: thusly they are also a chronicle of how the world learned about the unfolding SL9 saga. The final link goes to another (German) travel report to Chile and also Peru and Bolivia 1/2 year later on the occasion of a total solar eclipse for which the June/July 1994 trip had offered a great scouting opportunity. Enjoy!

Im Südsommer 1994 verbrachte der Autor fünf Wochen in Chile, als einer von zahlreichen 'angeworbenen' Beobachtern für eine Radio-Durchmusterung rund ums Milchstrassenzentrum auf dem Cerro Tololo Interamerican Observatory. Während des Aufenthalts dort schlugen die Bruchstücke des Kometen Shoemaker-Levy auf dem Jupiter ein, verfolgt von zahlreichen Astronomen auch auf dem CTIO, das zu einem der zentralen Beobachtungsplätze geworden waren. Hier sind - 20 Jahre danach - zum ersten Mal alle umfangreichen Berichte über sowohl die Reise vor und nachher (zum Scouten für eine totale Sonnenfinsternis in Nordchile 1/2 Jahr später) als auch &ueber die Impakt-Erfahrungen auf dem CTIO, die damals nur an eine Handvoll Adressen geschickt worden waren. Letztere sind erheblich erweitert durch Berichte aus erster Hand (und ebenfalls in Deutsch) aus Cambridge, Mass., USA, und (in Englisch) zahllose weitere vom ganzen Planeten und aus dem Weltraum, die sie zu einer Chronik der Ereignisse nahezu in Echtzeit machen. Viel Spass damit!

Daniel Fischer

Travel in Chile before the SL9 impacts / Reise in Chile vor den Impakten: June 30 to July 16

SL9 reports #1 to #5: July 1 to 14 (pre-impact / vor den Einschlägen)
SL9 reports #6 and #7: July 16 (first impact day, before & after / vor und nach dem ersten Einschlag)
SL9 report #8: July 17
SL9 report #9: July 18
SL9 report #10: July 19
SL9 report #11: July 20
SL9 report #12: July 21
SL9 report #13: July 22
SL9 report #14: July 23
SL9 report #15: July 25

Final comet report and travel in Chile after the impacts / Reise in Chile nach den Einschlägen: July 25 to 31.

Report on the November trip to Chile, Bolivia and Peru for the solar eclipse / SoFi-Reise 1/2 Jahr später.