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HubbleSite NASA's Hubble Sees Asteroid Spout Six Comet-like Tails


Space Telescope Science

It's not often that astronomers stumble across a celestial interloper that they can only describe as "weird and freakish." Hubble researchers say they were "literally dumbfounded" when they took a close-up look at an object that lives in the asteroid belt but superficially looks like a comet. It has no less than six dust tails that seem to be forming sequentially. The entire structure rotates like a bicycle wheel with spokes on one side.

One explanation is that the tails formed through a series of impulsive dust-ejection events. These could have been triggered when the gentle nudge of sunlight spun up the asteroid to the point where dust is falling off the surface and into space. Solar radiation stretches the dust into finger-like streamers.

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