Astronomer Eugene Shoemaker, who co-discovered the comet that slammed into Jupiter in 1994, was killed in a car accident Friday in Australia during an annual trip to search for asteroid craters. He was 69.
Shoemaker died in a two-car accident on a dirt road about 310 miles north of Alice Springs, in central Australia, police there said.His wife, Carolyn, another Lowell Observatory astronomer who shared in the Jupiter comet's discovery, was airlifted to a hospital, where her condition was not known, police in Alice Springs said.
Shoemaker was perhaps best known for helping to discover comet Shoemaker-Levy 9, which broke up and spectacularly slammed into the giant, gaseous planet in 1994. Amateur astronomer David Levy was also on the team.
A geologist by training, Shoemaker was also a leading expert on craters and the interplanetary collisions that caused them. He lived just a short drive from Arizona's famous Meteor Crater and first proved to the scientific community that it was indeed the result of an asteroid, said University of Arizona planetary scientist Larry Lebofsky.