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Nerdette

Podcats In Space

Yep. Podcats. Not a typo.

This week we take a journey back to 1994, just after an astronomer named Heidi Hammel — as well as the entire scientific community at large — learned that a fragmented comet named Shoemaker-Levy 9 was going to crash into Jupiter at a speed of more than 130,000 miles per hour.

"We have witnessed other impacts,” Heidi told Nerdette podcast. “What was really special about the Jupiter one was we had warning that it was going to happen.” 

This moment was huge for Heidi, who was just a young astronomer from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology at the time. She was asked to lead the team that would analyze photos of the impacts taken by the still-relatively-new Hubble Space Telescope. 

"There were some people who had the vision to build a Hubble Space Telescope so that when I was a young postdoc, I could use it to watch a comet crash into Jupiter," Hammel told Nerdette's Greta Johnsen. "Who did that? It wasn't me. I was just a kid, right? But I'm now one of those people that is trying to build the next thing so that some kid, somewhere, when she grows up and decides to be an astronomer, there's going to be a fantastic new facility for her to use. And she's going to do stuff that we haven't even thought of. That's why it needs to be super powerful, because I don't know what she's gonna want to do, but I better make a big powerful thing for her to use."

Oh yeah, in this podcast episode Heidi also compares planets to cats and herself to a veterinarian so PODCATS!


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