Hubble Space Telescope, NASA, ESA
A six-tailed asteroid lurks in the rocky belt between Mars and Jupiter.
Astronomers first spotted the space rock, called P/2013 P5, as a fuzzy ball in August. That was a bit of a surprise because asteroids often appear as tiny points of light. In September, scientists used the Hubble Space Telescope to follow up on the asteroid and were shocked to see that six dusty tails shot from the space rock, giving it a cometlike appearance.
Observations taken 13 days later showed that the asteroid’s structure seemed to have rotated, the researchers report November 7 in Astrophysical Journal Letters. The team plans to continue to observe the quasi-comet asteroid to determine how the object's tails form and evolve.
Note: To comment, Science News subscribing members must now establish a separate login relationship with Disqus. Click the Disqus icon below, enter your e-mail and click “forgot password” to reset your password. You may also log into Disqus using Facebook, Twitter or Google.