Feeds

Hubble snaps space conker bonk aftermath

'Comet like' dino-snuff astro lump bump sensation

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

Pic The Hubble space telescope has snapped a pic believed to show the results of two dinosaur-biffing asteroids smacking into each other in a hypervelocity collision - faster than two cannon shells fired from supersonic jet fighters hitting one another head on*.

P/2010 A2 Hubble image. Credit: NASA

In space, nobody can hear you bonk

The hubble snap shows a space thingy called P/2010 A2, first picked up by the Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR) sky survey project earlier this month. NASA describes it as "a comet-like object", but points out that it isn't like a regular comet - a chilly body plunging into the central solar system from its usual home out in the Oort cloud or Kuiper belt, and belching a long tail of hot innards due to the Sun's heat.

Rather, P/2010 A2 is thought to be from the asteroid belt, which harbours many such snowball-esque space lumpkins as well as its well-known flying boulders. NASA says:

The orbit of P/2010 A2 is consistent with membership in the Flora asteroid family, produced by collisional shattering more than 100 million years ago. One fragment of that ancient smashup may have struck Earth 65 million years ago, triggering a mass extinction that wiped out the dinosaurs.

This leaves open the possibility that the complex debris tail is the result of an impact between two bodies, rather than ice simply melting from a parent body.

"If this interpretation is correct, two small and previously unknown asteroids recently collided, creating a shower of debris that is being swept back into a tail from the collision site by the pressure of sunlight," adds UCLA space gubbins brainbox David Jewitt.

It's thought to be the first photo of a space asteroid prang ever taken, though boffins believe that such events have been occurring routinely more or less forever. ®

Bootnote

* NASA says:

Asteroid collisions are energetic, with an average impact speed of more than 11,000 miles per hour, or five times faster than a rifle bullet.

A Mig-25 Foxbat fighter can go at Mach 3.5, or roughly 2600 mph. A 30mm aircraft cannon shell** has a muzzle velocity of 1700-odd mph. Closing speed would thus be 8600mph, noticeably slower than the asteroid-bonk numbers.

Bootnote Bootnote

** We are aware that the Foxbat doesn't actually have a cannon. But if it did.

Eight steps to building an HP BladeSystem

More from The Register

next story
Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 claimed lives of HIV/AIDS cure scientists
Researchers, advocates, health workers among those on shot-down plane
Forty-five years ago: FOOTPRINTS FOUND ON MOON
NASA won't be back any time soon, sadly
Mwa-ha-ha-ha! Eccentric billionaire Musk gets his PRIVATE SPACEPORT
In the Lone Star State, perhaps appropriately enough
MARS NEEDS OCEANS to support life - and so do exoplanets
Just being in the Goldilocks zone doesn't mean there'll be anyone to eat the porridge
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Diary note: Pluto's close-up is a year from … now!
New Horizons is less than a year from the dwarf planet
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
prev story

Whitepapers

Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.