Rare Disintegrating Asteroid Spied by Hubble Telescope


This Hubble Space Telescope image reveals the gradual self-destruction of the asteroid (6478) Gault, whose ejected dusty material has formed two long, thin, comet-like tails. The longer tail stretches more than 500,000 miles (800,000 kilometers) and is roughly 3,000 miles (4,800 km) wide. The shorter tail is about a quarter as long. The streamers will eventually disperse into space.
(Image: © NASA, ESA, K. Meech and J. Kleyna (University of Hawaii), and O. Hainaut (European Southern Observatory))
This is what it looks like when an asteroid starts to fall apart.

By Mike Wall | SPACE.com

Two long, narrow tails of material are streaming from (6478) Gault, a 2.5-mile-wide (4 kilometers) rock in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, a new study reports.

Gault completes one rotation every 2 hours — so fast that the asteroid is flinging material off its surface into space, study team members said.

„This self-destruction event is rare,“ co-author Olivier Hainaut, of the European Southern Observatory in Garching, Germany, said in a statement. „Active and unstable asteroids such as Gault are just now being detected because of new survey telescopes that scan the entire sky, which means asteroids that are misbehaving such as Gault cannot escape detection anymore.“

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