Thursday, February 4, 2010

Real science: Rare picture of possible asteroid-asteroid collision

Image of an asteroid-asteroid collision in inner solar system taken by Hubble Telescope in January 2010Picture: Has links to image in 3 different resolutions, plus some commentary.

Details of the Hubble-photographed image & its possible interpretation at HubbleSite.

Object in photograph is called "P/2010 A2" - looks like a comet but isn't. First seen on 6 January 2010.

"If this interpretation is correct, two small and previously unknown asteroids recently collided, creating a shower of debris that is being swept back into a tail from the collision site by the pressure of sunlight".

"At the time of the Hubble observations, the object was approximately 180 million miles (300 million km) from the Sun and 90 million miles (140 million km) from Earth."

[via James Nicoll]

Related: Ross Rocklynne's "Time Wants a Skeleton": A group of adventurers unwittingly time travel to the "fifth planet" days before it is to be impacted by a large body from space - an impact that would create the current asteroid belt between Mars & Jupiter from their debris.