Hubble telescope has been the biggest anchor point of space exploration. It helped humans to shed light on some of the strangest objects in our universe and now it’s back again. Scientists might have found the strangest object in our solar system. NASA confirmed that they have found one binary asteroid which is also a functioning comet.
Scientists are baffled to see this phenomenon because they have never seen something like this. The asteroid pair was first discovered back in 2006. It was named 300163 (2006 VW139). Later in 2011 scientists observed comet-like activity and renamed it as a comet, 288P. Now again in 2017 things are changing.
Last year the object made its closest ever approach to the sun. When scientists observed the object with Hubble telescope it became clear that it is indeed a binary asteroid. The two asteroids are almost identical and orbit each other with a distance of 100 km. Though the astroids produce only one dust trail just like a comet.
“We detected strong indications for the sublimation (when a solid transforms directly into a gas) of water ice due to the increased solar heating—similar to how the tail of a comet is created,” said Jessica Agarwal, a scientist at the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research. “We need more theoretical and observational work, as well as more objects similar to 288P, to find an answer to this question,”
Jessica also said, that “Surface ice cannot survive in the asteroid belt for the age of the Solar System but can be protected for billions of years by a refractory dust mantle, only a few metres thick.”.
From this, they conclude it happened around 5000 years ago. “The most probable formation scenario of 288P is a breakup due to fast rotation. After that, the two fragments may have been moved further apart by sublimation torques.”
Scientists will be looking much deeper on this type of objects. Until we find more it is really hard to surely say how the binary asteroid-comet system formed.
Also published on Medium.