P/2010 A2 Was An Asteroid Collision (Says Hubble)

What you see here is something mankind has never seen before, the aftermath of an asteroid collision. This conclusion comes after the Hubble Space Telescope was commanded to take a closer look at a strange comet-like object pottering around in the asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.

The truth is we’re still struggling to understand what this means,” said David Jewitt, a planetary physicist from UCLA. “It’s most likely the result of a recent collision between two asteroids.”

After P/2010 A2 was discovered in January, Jewitt managed to get observation time on Hubble to get a closer look of what was thought could be a rare asteroid-comet hybrid.

In the image, the object named P/2010 A2 has a very obvious “X” on its surface shaped pattern in its tale, possibly the location where a smaller body slammed into it at high speed. The result of this hyper-velocity impact produced a lot of debris and scientists think the comet-like tail being swept back by the pressure of the solar wind is dust and outgassing volatiles (like subliming water ice).

Although this kind of event has never been observed before, over the lifetime of the evolving solar system, events like this occur on a regular basis, in fact asteroid collisions have shaped the asteroid belt. Interestingly, it is thought this impact was caused by a collision of a “Flora family” asteroid, a type of object that may have wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. (Don’t worry, this collision won’t affect Earth in any way, the dinosaur thing is simply an interesting connection!)

What an incredible discovery, it’s fortunate that we have Hubble’s excellent eyesight to peer deep into the asteroid belt…

Sources: Reuters, Discovery News

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6 responses to “P/2010 A2 Was An Asteroid Collision (Says Hubble)

  1. “In the image, the object named P/2010 A2 has a very obvious “X” pattern on its surface …”Ian it pays to research. P/2010 A2 is estimated to be only 460 feet in diamater, the main “tail” in this image being nearly 5,000 MILES wide (very rough estimate from image with scale bar).http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/archive/releas…We are not seeing an “X” pattern on the surface, but in the “tail”. How this is meant to be the result of a collision is beyond me… Cheers, Dave.

    • Hi Dave.I actually spoke to someone on the Hubble team and one of the theories is that the X is caused by a high speed impact, cracking the surface of the object. Volatiles and dust is therefore being vented into space creating the X-like cloud. I've tightened the text to make this a little clearer, shouldn't have said “surface.”If you have an alternate theory feel free to share.Cheers, Ian

      • My point is Ian, you wrote “In the image … has a very obvious 'X' pattern ON IT'S SURFACE” implying we can actualy see the surface of the object in the image. I see you have now amended the article. However, volatiles and dust vented into space should dissipate quickly, not maintain an “X” shape up to 5,000 miles across.You know I subscribe to an alternate theory, that of cometary displays being predominately an electrical feature, but I do not intend to use your pages as a soapbox, I just wanted you to realize that the feature we are seeing is thousands of miles across, not an “X” on the surface.There are other facets of this enigma which an enquiring mind ought question, such as why what is essentially an asteroid (chunk of rock) should be venting volatiles like a comet (dirty snowball). I am currently publishing chapter 4 of Wal Thornhill's The Electric Universe of which you have a copy, which offers a better fit (IMO) than the current “it must be an impact” theories.For others who do not have the book, see the “Special Edition – Excerpts from The Electric Universe” Thunderblogs (with more to come each week). http://www.thunderbolts.info/thunderblogs/Cheers, Dave.

  2. It looks like it is a result of two asteroids that collided . Though planetary physicist can't exactly tell what it is. But base on the picture provided it looks like it is. It needs more attention, they have to do a lot of researches to come up with the exact reason.-Contributor: Pregnancy Miracle Thoughts

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