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Interactive video lesson plan for: On Jupiter - Destroyer of Comets

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The most amazing thing about Jupiter for us Earthlings is that there is no place to stand. We see nothing but clouds and hurricanes the size of Earth, we don’t see the ground because there is no ground.

For five billion years an icy juggernaut had roamed the backstreets of the Solar System flaring only as it swept close to the heat of the sun. But Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 hadn’t reckoned on the mighty power of the planet Jupiter. Jupiter, the king of the planets, destroyer of comets.

The broken fragments of Shoemaker-Levy 9 were big enough to remodel life on Earth. Each was being sucked in by the largest planet in the Solar System, each of their fiery descents was another chance to find out what it’s really like on Jupiter.

The impact of SL9 highlighted Jupiter's role as a "cosmic vacuum cleaner" for the inner Solar System. The planet's strong gravitational influence leads to many comets and asteroids colliding with the planet. If Jupiter were not present, the probability of asteroid impacts with the Solar System's inner planets would be much greater.

For millennia the bright beacon of Jupiter has caught the human gaze as it has travelled the heavens, but we had to wait for the invention of the telescope and a renaissance Italian for the planet to begin giving up its secrets. On the night of 7th January 1610 Galileo Galilei made a discovery that was to challenge Earth’s claim to sovereignty of the solar system.

Jupiter’s dominance of the Solar System is complete, 1,300 times the size of Earth, it’s a world so enormous it could swallow every planet and moon in the solar system an still have room to spare. Looking back from Jupiter the Earth is a feeble speck circling a faint and distant sun

Documentary narrated by John Hurt.

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