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Hubble Space Telescope Spots Strange Asteroid with 6 Tails of Dust

Marcia Dunn
Published: November 11, 2013

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – This is one strange asteroid.

The Hubble Space Telescope has discovered a six-tailed asteroid in the asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. Scientists say they've never seen anything like it. Incredibly, the comet-like tails change shape as the asteroid sheds dust. The streams have occurred over several months.

(WATCH: Could a Piece of Space Junk Crash in the United States?)

A research team led by the University of California, Los Angeles, believes the asteroid, designated P/2013 P5, is rotating so much that its surface is flying apart. It's believed to be a fragment of a larger asteroid damaged in a collision 200 million years ago.

Scientists using the Pan-STARRS telescope in Hawaii spotted the asteroid in August. Hubble picked out all the tails in September.

The discovery is described in this week's issue of Astrophysical Journal Letters.

MORE: Seeing Snow From Space

February 19, 2007

February 19, 2007

NASA

This image clearly shows the dividing line between fresh snow cover and bare ground right along the I-95 corridor in the Northeast.

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