Hubble tracks the aftermath of a possible asteroid collision

Please consider donating to Behind the Black, by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, as outlined in the tip jar to the right or below. Your support will allow me to continue covering science and culture as I have for the past twenty years, independent and free from any outside influence.

Using the Hubble Space Telescope over the last ten months, astronomers have tracked the decaying aftermath of a possible asteroid collision. Key quote:

Astronomers think a smaller rock, perhaps 10 to 15 feet wide, slammed into the larger one. The pair probably collided at high speed, about 11,000 mph, which smashed and vaporized the small asteroid and stripped material from the larger one. Jewitt estimates that the violent encounter happened in February or March 2009 and was as powerful as the detonation of a small atomic bomb.

The image sequence below, taken from the original paper describing the discovery [pdf], shows the slow changes that have occurred since January. At the moment scientists do not have an satisfactory explanation for the nucleus’s X-shaped pattern in the earliest images.

sequence of images of disrupted asteroid


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *