Author Topic: Hubble witnesses an asteroid mysteriously disintegrating  (Read 1147 times)

kodemunkey

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Hubble witnesses an asteroid mysteriously disintegrating
« on: March 06, 2014, 11:26:51 pm »


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The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has photographed the never-before-seen break-up of an asteroid, which has fragmented into as many as ten smaller pieces. Although fragile comet nuclei have been seen to fall apart as they approach the Sun, nothing like the breakup of this asteroid, P/2013 R3, has ever been observed before in the asteroid belt.

"This is a rock. Seeing it fall apart before our eyes is pretty amazing," said David Jewitt of UCLA, USA, who led the astronomical forensics investigation.

The crumbling asteroid, designated P/2013 R3, was first noticed as an unusual, fuzzy-looking object on 15 September 2013 by the Catalina and Pan-STARRS sky surveys. Follow-up observations on 1 October with the Keck Telescope on Mauna Kea, Hawaii, revealed three co-moving bodies embedded in a dusty envelope that is nearly the diameter of Earth.

"Keck showed us that this thing was worth looking at with Hubble,” Jewitt said. With its superior resolution, the space-based Hubble observations soon showed that there were really ten distinct objects, each with comet-like dust tails. The four largest rocky fragments are up to 200 metres in radius, about twice the length of a football pitch

http://www.spacetelescope.org/news/heic1405/