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Hubble JUST Discovered a Comet-like Binary Asteroid between Mars & Jupiter (+Video)

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NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope helped an international team of astronomers find that an unusual object in the asteroid belt is, in fact, two asteroids orbiting each other that have comet-like features. These include a bright halo of material, called a coma, and a long tail of dust. Hubble was used to image the asteroid, designated 300163 (2006 VW139), in September 2016 just before the asteroid made its closest approach to the Sun. Hubble’s crisp images revealed that it was actually not one, but two asteroids of almost the same mass and size, orbiting each other at a distance of 60 miles.

Asteroid 300163 (2006 VW139) was discovered by Spacewatch in November 2006 and then the possible cometary activity was seen in November 2011 by Pan-STARRS. Both Spacewatch and Pan-STARRS are asteroid survey projects of NASA’s Near Earth Object Observations Program. After the Pan-STARRS observations it was also given a comet designation of 288P. This makes the object the first known binary asteroid that is also classified as a main-belt comet.

The fact that 2006 VW139/288P is so different from all other known binary asteroids raises some questions about how common such systems are in the asteroid belt.

Read more here: http://hubblesite.org/news_release/news/2017-32
The research is presented in a paper, to be published in the journal Nature this week.
http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v549/n7672/full/nature23892.html?foxtrotcallback=true

Clips, images credit: NASA, ESA, and J. Agarwal (Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research 



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    • hansom

      Wow two rocks mutually bound by gravity, this will end starvation and cure all manner of diseases.

      • spure

        did anyone say it would? GTH you FDB!

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