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Waspie_Dwarf

[Merged] Asteroid Has Comet-Like Tails

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NASA's Hubble Sees Asteroid Spouting Six Comet-Like Tails

Astronomers viewing our solar system's asteroid belt with NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have seen for the first time an asteroid with six comet-like tails of dust radiating from it like spokes on a wheel.

Unlike all other known asteroids, which appear simply as tiny points of light, this asteroid, designated P/2013 P5, resembles a rotating lawn sprinkler. Astronomers are puzzled over the asteroid's unusual appearance.

"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."

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Edited by Waspie_Dwarf
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Astronomers have spotted a never-before-seen phenomenon in our solar system's asteroid belt: a space rock with six tails, spewing dust from its nucleus like spouts of water radiating from a lawn sprinkler.

http://news.yahoo.com/bizarre-asteroid-six-tails-spotted-hubble-telescope-photos-214743038.html

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Asteroid that thinks its a comet or comet in the asteroid belt? Nowhere in the article or any of the other articles I've read that picked up on this is the word "comet" used, but that is sure what it makes me think. I suppose some asteroids for various reasons might have acquired icy exteriors subject to throw off tails like that under the right conditions.

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I think it may be debris. It also notes that water/ice was not in this asteroid.

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The gravity is not strong enough to deal with the centripetal force throwing out the debris. I think it was measured to be over 400 meters in length.

Edited by Mentalcase

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Asteroid that thinks its a comet or comet in the asteroid belt? Nowhere in the article or any of the other articles I've read that picked up on this is the word "comet" used, but that is sure what it makes me think.

As Mentalcase has said there appears to be no water ice in the tails, only dust, so this is most definitely not a comet. This is probably the break up of an asteroid.

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The object is so odd looking that Dr. David Jewitt, its discoverer, is somewhat restrained in his endorsement of the idea that it is an asteroid spinning itself to pieces. Says he: 'I'm open to the possibility that this explanation is completely wrong. It is possible that there is an explanation we haven't thought of yet, and that may be even more interesting'. This quote is from the article linked below. The object would have to be determined to be spinning very rapidly before this explanation could work. The object would have to have a particular shape before it could be spun up like this by the weak but persistent pressure of the solar wind.http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-asteroid-with-six-comet-like-tails-20131107,0,4090489.story#axzz2k46NKrNu

Edited by bison

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I was just looking at it. It is rocky (icy?) with large, square, crystal-like structures. I felt it had large holes, as if water eroded tunnels through it, in different directions / orientations.

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The article I linked in my previous post has a gallery of five images of the object at the top. The fifth of these shows the Hubble Space Telescope pictures from Sept. 10th and 23rd with the direction of the Sun indicated. The six tails are labeled a. through f.

We are told that the dust escaping from the object would be smeared out into the tails by the pressure of the solar wind. Odd then, it seems, that some of these, b and c, appear to run out at right angles to the direction of the Sun and one, a, seems to point somewhat toward the Sun, rather than away from it.

Edited by bison

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Odd then, it seems, that some of these, b and c, appear to run out at right angles to the direction of the Sun and one, a, seems to point somewhat toward the Sun, rather than away from it.

Not odd at all. Forward pointing tails are often seen with comets.

Edited to add:

HERE is a wikipedia on forward pointing "antitails".

Note that antitails are composed of dust, which is exactly what we are seeing with this asteroid.

Edited by Waspie_Dwarf
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This is a spaceship with its ionic thrusters out of control.

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The linked Wikipedia article says that the anti-tail of a comet appears to point directly toward the Sun. That does not seem to be the direction of the three tails to which I referred. Tails b. and c. seem to extend at about right angles to the direction of the Sun. Tail a. appears to point about 60 degree from the Sun on Sept. 10th, and around 30 degrees on the 23rd.

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Okay, "Duh!" but I'll say it anyway.

Very exciting discovery! And an interesting thread discussion.

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Bison, the trails are pointing in random directions based on the spin of the asteroid. It is spinning at a rather fast rate for the debris to be "spouting" away from it. The gravity would normally hold the matter.

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The object may be spinning rapidly enough to throw off dust from its equator. That is yet to be confirmed by observing the rate of spin and its orientation in space. The article in the original post said that: 'Radiation pressure from the Sun stretched the dust into streamers'. This suggests that the solar wind could play as important a part as centrifugal force. If dust was released in brief spurts, it is a reasonable scenario that the solar wind caught it and sent it outward in straight lines, the angle depending on the orientation of the object in its rotation at that particular time.

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Seems almost like a hybrid object somewhere between a comet and an asteroid. Generally you think of asteroids as being rock, makes you wonder how many might contain large quantities of water ice. Perhaps a resource for future travelers?

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Seems almost like a hybrid object somewhere between a comet and an asteroid.

No it doesn't. There is only dust in these tails, no plasma tail generated from water ice. It may have comet like tails but is is most definitely an asteroid.

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The article in the original post said that: 'Radiation pressure from the Sun stretched the dust into streamers'. This suggests that the solar wind could play as important a part as centrifugal force. If dust was released in brief spurts, it is a reasonable scenario that the solar wind caught it and sent it outward in straight lines, the angle depending on the orientation of the object in its rotation at that particular time.

Bison you seem to be trying to generate a mystery where there is none. You are concentrating on one sentence taking it out of context and then failing to apply basic science.

The sentence says:

Radiation pressure from the Sun stretched the dust into streamers

You then use this sentence out of context to leap to conclusions.

Where does it say that "solar wind could play as important a part as centrifugal force"? Answer; it doesn't, that is pure invention from you.

Now try thinking about what is going on in simple scientific terms.

Dust particles are, in relation to the particles of the solar wind, massive. They will have inertia as they are thrown off of the asteroid. The solar wind will not magically nullify this inertia and force the dust to follow a path directly away from the asteroid (do some research into comet tails, you will find that whilst the plasma tail faces directly away from the sun, the dust tail doesn't).

What the solar wind will do is impart an additional force on the dust in a direction away from the sun, forcing the particles into the streamers described. It will not remove all of the inertia the particles already have and so the streamers will continue to rotate with the asteroid.

This happens with comets. If the dust particles we are seeing here are larger than the typical dust particle we see in a comet (which is not an unreasonable assumption given that we are talking about a rocky body as opposed to a body usually described as a "dirty snowball").

There is no big mystery here (above and beyond the massive mystery of what is causing these tails in the first place). The only real mystery is why you didn't apply Laws first published by Isaac Newton nearly 370 years ago.

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Or trusters of a real space craft

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