Mysterious Six-Tailed Asteroid Is a Dying Asteroid, Scientists Say
NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has captured stunning pictures of a mysterious asteroid which -- of all things -- seems to have multiple rotating tails.
According to the report published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters, instead of appearing as a small point of light, like most cosmic rocks of its kind, the asteroid in question has half a dozen comet-like dust tails radiating out like spokes on a wheel.
“This is an amazing object and almost certainly the first of many more to come,” said David Jewitt, lead investigator and a professor in the University of California Los Angeles Department of Earth and Space Sciences.
“It's hard to believe we're looking at an asteroid," he continued. "We were dumbfounded when we saw it. Amazingly, its tail structures change dramatically in just 13 days as it belches out dust."
The exotic asteroid was baptized as P/2013 P5. And according to NASA astronomers, it might have been spewing dust for about five months or so.
One theory advanced by NASA researchers suggests that the asteroid started spinning so fast that it started to disintegrate. According to the same theory the tails are not result of impacts, because, according to the scientists, it would have caused dust to spray out all at once.
The first shots of the mysterious spinning object were taken by the Hubble telescope on September, following its first sighting in Hawaii.
According to Jewitt, the asteroid may be a product of an asteroid collision that occurred 200 million years ago.
Jewitt said the object may have come from an asteroid collision 200 million years ago.
“The pattern of dispersing dust in fits and bursts,” he said, “May be how it slowly dies.”
"In astronomy, where you find one, you eventually find a whole bunch more," he said. "This is an amazing object and almost certainly the first of many more to come."