X Marks the Spot

P/2010 A2 is what it is called and it is pretty much unlike any object seen before. This object orbits the Sun within the main asteroid belt which is found between Mars and Jupiter.

Now this is a very interesting object. If you look at the picture, it has a tail trailing behind it…. the reason why P/2010 A2 has been classified as a comet when it was discovered 4 weeks ago. However even though this object has a comet tail it has the orbit of an asteroid. Very strange.

X Marks The Spot (Click to Enlarge)

The Hubble telescope was pointed at P/2010 A2 and took a very interesting picture. You can see a distinctive X shape in the very center as well as the nucleus of the object which you can see in front of the object appearing as a white speck. It is very strange for a nucleus of a comet to be outside the comet’s dust cloud.

It now appears that comet P/2010 A2 is not actually a comet but the result of 2 asteroids in the belt colliding together. Tails of comets are a result of ice melting from the object as it nears the heat of the sun. In this case, the tail streaming behind P/2010 A2 is not ice but a trail of debris consisting of dust and gravel resulting from the collisions between the asteroids. The white dot seen in front of the object is apparently the surviving chunk of asteroid left over from the collision.

So what is with the big X?

Well it appears that this is simply the cloud of debris resulting from the two small asteroids which collided together with the energy of several nuclear bombs.

A pretty impressive picture taken by the Hubble as it rules out a comet and apparently is the first ever picture taken showing the results of 2 asteroids colliding.

So can we see this object from Sydney?  No…not really. This is a fairly small object and it has an apparent magnitude of +20 making it almost impossible to see unless we use a telescope like the Hubble.

~ by sydneystargazers on February 3, 2010.

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