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NASA Hubble Space Telescope captures an asteroid falling apart
NASA's space telescope takes another breathtaking image.
NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has a knack for capturing stunning images of the extraterrestrial objects. Continuing the trend, the telescope has now snapped an asteroid while it was spinning fast and throwing off debris.
The new images show two narrow comet-like tails of the debris from the asteroid (6478) Gault. Each tail is proof that the asteroid gently shed its material, which also means the asteroid is going to tear apart, said NASA.
Discovered in 1988, the 4km wide asteroid is located around 344 million km from the Sun. Thanks to the data from Hubble, astronomers will be able to study the formation of an asteroid without having to send a probe to sample them.
"We didn't have to go to Gault," explained Olivier Hainaut, a member of the Gault observing team.
"We just had to look at the image of the streamers, and we can see all of the dust grains well-sorted by size.
"All the large grains (about the size of sand particles) are close to the object and the smallest grains (about the size of flour grains) are the farthest away because they are being pushed fastest by pressure from sunlight," Hainaut said.
The researchers estimate that the asteroid could have been slowly spinning up for almost 100 million years. Besides, the environment of the asteroid shows no signs of more widely distributed debris, which rules out the possibility of a collision with another asteroid as the reason for the outburst, NASA said in a statement, reported The Astrophysical Journal Letters.