Sunday, March 9, 2014

Asteroid P/2013 R3 Disintegrates

This series of images shows the asteroid P/2013 R3 breaking apart, as viewed by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope in 2013. This is the first time that such a body has been seen to undergo this kind of break-up.

The Hubble observations showed that there are ten distinct objects, each with comet-like dust tails, embedded within the asteroid's dusty envelope. The four largest rocky fragments are up to 200 meters in radius, about twice the length of a football pitch.

The date increases from left to right, with frames from 29 October 2013, 15 November 2013, 13 December 2013, and 14 January 2014 respectively, showing how the clumps of debris material move around. The 14 January 2014 frame was not included in the science paper and is additional data.

Image credit: (top) NASA, ESA, D. Jewitt (UCLA); (bottom) NASA, ESA, D. Jewitt (UCLA)

Note: For more information, see Hubble Witnesses an Asteroid Mysteriously Disintegrating and Hubble Witnesses Asteroid's Mysterious Disintegration.

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