Hubble finds 6 tailed asteroid

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Hubble finds 6 tailed asteroid

Post by neufer » Thu Nov 07, 2013 4:36 pm wrote: ‘Freakish’ Asteroid Has Six Tails, Sheds Stuff Into Space
by Elizabeth Howell on November 7, 2013

<<A lawn sprinkler in space. That’s one of the descriptions NASA has for the curious P/2013 P5, which is spewing not one, not two, but six comet-like tails at the same time. “We were literally dumbfounded when we saw it,” stated David Jewitt of the University of California at Los Angeles, who led the research. “Even more amazing, its tail structures change dramatically in just 13 days as it belches out dust. That also caught us by surprise. It’s hard to believe we’re looking at an asteroid.” UCLA described the asteroid as a ”weird and freakish object” in its own press release.

The mystery started when astronomers spotted a really blotchy thing in space Aug. 27 with the Pan-STARRS survey telescope in Hawaii. The Hubble Space Telescope then swung over to take a look on Sept. 10, revealing all these tails of debris flying off the asteroid.

It appears, scientists say, that the asteroid is rotating so quickly that it is ripping its very surface apart. They’ve ruled out a collision because the dust leaves in spurts; calculations by team member Jessica Agarwal of the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Lindau, Germany estimated this happened on April 15, July 18, July 24, Aug. 8, Aug. 26 and Sept. 4.

Once the dust gets loose, the sun’s continuous stream of particles then pushes the debris into these extraordinary tails. It’s also possible that this “radiation pressure” contributed to the asteroid’s high spin rate. It appears the team is looking to find more of these objects to see if this is a way that smaller asteroids commonly fall apart. “In astronomy, where you find one, you eventually find a whole bunch more,” Jewitt stated. “This is just an amazing object to us, and almost certainly the first of many more to come.”>> wrote:
<<Measurements of the rotation rates of large asteroids in the asteroid belt show that there is an upper limit. No asteroid with a diameter larger than 100 meters has a rotation period smaller than 2.2 hours. For asteroids rotating faster than approximately this rate, the inertia at the surface is greater than the gravitational force, so any loose surface material would be flung out. However, a solid object should be able to rotate much more rapidly. This suggests that most asteroids with a diameter over 100 meters are rubble piles formed through accumulation of debris after collisions between asteroids.>>
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Re: P(ee)i(n)gs in space

Post by neufer » Fri Nov 08, 2013 5:25 am wrote: Hubble sees freaky asteroid P/2013 P5 sprout six tails
Astrobob, November 7, 2013

<<Back in August, astronomers using the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS) survey telescope in Hawaii discovered an unusually fuzzy-looking object dubbed P/2013 P5. Later, on September 10, when the Hubble Space Telescope took a look, it revealed that the asteroid had sprouted six tails!

When Hubble returned less than two weeks later to re-photograph P/2013 P5, the entire tail structure had swung over to the other side of the asteroid. What’s going on here? Scientists think the asteroid’s rotation rate has increased to the point where it’s flinging dust from its surface into space. The pressure of sunlight pushes the dust away, forming a tail(s) just like a comet. As P/2013 P5 rotates and periodically releases dust, the tails twist about in different orientations.

Unlike asteroids, comets are composed of dust-impregnated ice; when they’re heated by the sun, some of the ice vaporizes, liberating dust that’s then pushed back into a tail by the pressure of the solar wind. P/2013 P5 looks superficially similar to a comet but it’s smack dab in the asteroid belt and studies of the tails indicate they were released in a series of “dust-ejections” on April 15, July 18, July 24, Aug. 8, Aug. 26 and Sept. 4. “We were literally dumbfounded when we saw it,” said lead investigator David Jewitt of the University of California at Los Angeles. “Even more amazing, its tail structures change dramatically in just 13 days as it belches out dust. That also caught us by surprise. It’s hard to believe we’re looking at an asteroid.”

The asteroid measures about 427 meters across and shines at a very dim magnitude 20, well beyond the limits of visual observing in amateur telescopes. It’s believed radiation (light and heat) pressure from the sun spun up P/2013 P5 causing it to lose dust from its equator into space – a first step in the potential breakup of the asteroid. As of now, it’s lost only about 1,000 tons of dust, a small fraction of its mass. Astronomers plan to study the asteroid closely to see if it disintegrates. P/2013 P5′s dusty fits may shed light on how asteroids break down into ever smaller pieces, some of which are perturbed by Jupiter, end up in orbits that cross that of Earth and eventually land on our planet as meteorites.>>
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Re: P(ee)i(n)gs in space

Post by Beyond » Fri Nov 08, 2013 6:01 am

6 tails... that's a lot of P(ee)i(n)gs going on in our solar system :!:
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Hubble finds 6 tailed asteroid

Post by orin stepanek » Fri Nov 08, 2013 4:57 pm

Image: Active Asteroid P/2013 P5

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This NASA Hubble Space Telescope set of images reveals a never-before-seen set of six comet-like tails radiating from a body in the asteroid belt, designated P/2013 P5.

The asteroid was discovered as an unusually fuzzy-looking object with the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS) survey telescope in Hawaii. The multiple tails were discovered in Hubble images taken on Sept. 10, 2013. When Hubble returned to the asteroid on Sept. 23, the asteroid's appearance had totally changed. It looked as if the entire structure had swung around.

One interpretation is that the asteroid's rotation rate has been increased to the point where dust is falling off the surface and escaping into space where the pressure of sunlight sweeps out fingerlike tails. According to this theory, the asteroid's spin has been accelerated by the gentle push of sunlight. The object, estimated to be no more than 1,400 feet across, has ejected dust for at least five months, based on analysis of the tail structure.

These visible-light, false-color images were taken with Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3.

Object Name: P/2013 P5

Image Type: Astronomical/Annotated

Credit: NASA, ESA, and D. Jewitt (UCLA)

NEWS RELEASE IMAGESThe above montage includes these images:
P/2013 P5 on September 10, 2013
Image Type: Astronomical
P/2013 P5 on September 23, 2013
Image Type: Astronomical
All images from this news release:
To access available information and downloadable versions of images in this news release, click on any of the images below:


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Astrophile: Dying asteroid is a six-tailed beast

Post by bystander » Wed Dec 18, 2013 1:54 am

Dying asteroid is a six-tailed beast
New Scientist | Astrophile | Lisa Grossman | 2013 Nov 08

Object: spouting asteroid P/2013 P5
Size: 427 metres wide
Prognosis: near death
Click to view full size image 1 or image 2
[hr][/hr]This six-tailed asteroid is spinning in its grave
(Credit: NASA, ESA, and D. Jewitt (UCLA),
J. Agarwal (Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research),
H. Weaver (Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory),
M. Mutchler (STScI), and S. Larson (University of Arizona))

This freakish asteroid may be spinning in its grave. Unlike its rocky siblings, asteroid P/2013 P5 has a record six tails of dust streaming from its body. It also whirls about on its axis, spewing material like a rotating lawn sprinkler. This suggests the oddball object is spinning so fast it is falling apart, which could help us better understand the life cycles of asteroids.

Until recently, comets were the only space rocks thought to have tails. Born in the frigid outer reaches of the solar system, comets are made from ice and dust. Their famous tails form when they swing close enough to the sun that the ice turns directly to gas, creating haloes of material that get swept back in one direction by radiation pressure from the sun.

Most asteroids occupy a belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter and are made primarily of rock without much ice. Since 2006, though, David Jewitt of the University of California, Los Angeles, and colleagues have found a number of asteroids in this belt masquerading as comets.

"These are bodies that are asteroids as determined by their orbit – they're sitting there in the asteroid belt, completely different from the orbits of comets, so there's no confusing them," says Jewitt. "But they look like comets. They're rocks and, weirdly, they're ejecting dust. The question is why."

Telltale spin

P/2013 P5 was first observed by a telescope in Hawaii on 18 August as a fuzzy-looking object in the asteroid belt. When Jewitt's team pointed the Hubble Space Telescope at it on 10 September, the fuzz resolved into six distinct tails. "That must be a record," says Jewitt. "I don't even know of regular comets that do that."

In most previous cases, tailed asteroids had survived a collision with another space rock, and the tails were clouds of dust kicked up by the impact. Others had some remnant ice trapped beneath their rocky surface that escaped to space, forming faint tails. But P/2013 P5 is too close to the sun for any ice to survive, and the odds of all six tails being the result of separate impacts are vanishingly small.

"Space is big, and collisions are rare. You can fly right through the asteroid belt and never see an asteroid, never get close enough to one to take a picture of it, never even get hit by a piece of dust," says Jewitt. "It's not an impact, I would bet a huge amount of money on that."

A clue to the tails' origins came almost two weeks later, when the team again observed the asteroid with Hubble. The tails were all in different positions, as if the entire structure had spun like a wheel. "That freaked us out big time," says Jewitt. "But we can explain it if the dust was emitted on six separate occasions."

Bucket-loads to come?

The most likely explanation is that the rock is falling apart, the team says. They think pressure from sunlight could have nudged the asteroid so that it is spinning so fast gravity can barely hold it together. Jewitt's colleagues modelled the spinning asteroid and showed that a series of events, like mini avalanches, could have been triggered by the break-up and ejected dust over the past five months, forming the tails one by one.

"Maybe eventually something more dramatic will happen," says Jewitt. "It could split and make a binary. That's something to look forward to."

If this model is right, it could help solve a mystery about how asteroids die. Over millions of years, bigger rocks can collide and grind each other down into pieces, some of which get ejected from the asteroid belt and sent careening through the solar system. But it is unlikely that the smaller asteroids that remain in the belt will collide again. P/2013 P5 suggests that these asteroids can instead spin themselves into dust.

Although the six-tailed beast is a lone oddity for now, the team is confident that there are more multi-tailed asteroids out there that would back up the theory. "With anything in astronomy, first one example is found and then you find a bucket-load more," says Jewitt. "That's got to be the future of this field too."

The Extraordinary Multi-Tailed Main-Belt Comet P/2013 P5 - David Jewitt et al
Hubble Sees Asteroid Spout Six Comet-like Tails
NASA | STScI HubbleSite | Science@NASA | 2013 Nov 07

When is a comet not a comet?
ESA/HEIC Hubble Science Release | 2013 Nov 07

'Freakish' asteroid discovered, resembles rotating lawn sprinkler
University of California Los Angeles | 2013 Nov 07

Cosmic oddball
Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research | 2013 Nov 12

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