'Weird' OBJECT, PROPELLED by its OWN JETS, spotted beyond Mars orbit by Hubble

Hubble snaps 'freakish' astro-thing

Pic A bizarre spinning object, described by NASA as "weird and freakish" and shooting jets of matter that cause it to move, has been spotted in our Solar System.

The mysterious rock, located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, was seen spewing matter from its surface by the Hubble space telescope on September 10. Then in a second image taken on September 23 the asteroid, dubbed P/2013 P5, appeared to have swung around significantly.

asteroid stream from P/2013 P5. Credit: NASA/ESA

Spaffing all over space ... What happens when the Sun gets pushy
(Click for more info. Credit: NASA/ESA)

Professor David Jewitt – of the Department of Earth and Space Sciences at the University of California, Los Angeles – told The Register that the appearance of the asteroid is unique, and the team has some ideas of how it came to exhibit such unusual characteristics.

"One idea was that we were seeing ice on the asteroid outgassing, but the object is too hot, around 170 Kelvin, for ice," he explained. "An impact with the asteroid was discussed but that would leave one large plume, not six."

The current idea is that the asteroid is being spun around so quickly that it is breaking apart under the strain of its own rotation. The spin is probably the result of hundreds of thousands of years of slight pressure from solar emissions.

Stars like our Sun emit protons and radiation that can push against objects in its heliosphere, and for asteroids of a certain shape these emissions cause rotation. Since the pressure from the Sun is constant, and space is virtually frictionless, then asteroids can spin faster and faster until they disintegrate.

This YORP effect (named after the four scientists who contributed to the theory: Yarkovsky, O'Keefe, Radzievskii, and Paddack) has been suggested as a reason for the relative paucity of small, asymmetrical objects within our Solar System in comparison to rounder rocks, and the search is now on for more observations of the theory in action.

"In astronomy, where you find one, you eventually find a whole bunch more," said Prof Jewitt, whose study of the rock [PDF] was published in the Astrophysical Journal of Letters. "This is an amazing object and almost certainly the first of many more to come." ®




More from The Register

dna_space

In a galaxy far, far away, aliens may have eight-letter DNA – like the kind NASA-backed boffins just crafted

This may be proof that ET doesn't need the same DNA chemicals we need
asteroid

We regret to inform you the massive asteroid NASA's all excited about probably won't hit Earth

Apophis will be inside satellite belt, visible to the naked eye from our home world, sweet release not imminent...
glory

NASA fingers the cause of two bungled satellite launches, $700m in losses, years of science crashing and burning...

Aluminium manufacturer accused of running 19-year supply quality scam
Bennu

FYI: NASA has sent a snatch-and-grab spacecraft to an asteroid to seize some rock and send it back to Earth

Off-planet manic miner reaches orbit around its prey: Bennu
Milky Way photo via Shutterstock

How's this for sci-fi: A cosmic river of 4,000 stars dazzles lifeforms as it flows through a galaxy. And that galaxy is the Milky Way

And said lifeforms include us humans on Earth
NASA Opportunity Rover on Mars (pic: NASA)

A once-in-a-lifetime Opportunity: NASA bids emotional farewell to its cocky, hardworking RC science car on Mars

Amazing what you can achieve on unforgiving dust world over 15 years with a 20MHz RISC CPU and a bunch of probes
The International Space Station, NASA

NASA goes commercial, publishes price for trips to the ISS – and it'll be multi-millionaires only for this noAirBNB

$22,500 a day to breathe, eat and exercise, $50 per GB for data, $11,250 to pee and sleep
Sun photo via Shutterstock

Plasma bubbles 500 times the size of earth, ultra-hot rain - let's face it, the Sun's not a place to hang out nearby

Long-dead Helios probes' data still opening up new science

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019