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Asteroid disintegrates while spinning too fast

Asteroid P/2013 R3 is shown breaking apart in this Hubble Space Telescope image taken October 29, 2013.

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Guest post by Christopher Crockett

Asteroid P/2013 R3 is shattering into a cloud of debris in these images captured by the Hubble Space Telescope.

Unlike comets, which crumble as pressure builds from sublimating ice, this asteroid appears to be spinning itself to death. Subtle pressure from a million years of sunlight gradually spun up the space rock until it was rotating too fast to hold itself together.

The observations are presented March 6 in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

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