P/2010 A imaged by Dr. Robert McMillan at Kitt Peak, Arizona. Credit: LINEAR

Asteroid Collision May Have Created Comet-like Object

19 Jan , 2010 by


A strange comet-like object discovered on January 6, 2010 may actually be the result of an asteroid collision. Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR) sky survey in New Mexico spotted an object in the asteroid belt, called P/2010 A that looked “fuzzy,” with a tail like a comet rather than a speck of light like a normal asteroid. But comets don’t normally reside in the asteroid belt, and the object’s orbit is all wrong for a comet. While the asteroid belt is made up of debris from the “leftovers” of our solar system, and like the remains of early crashes between giant rocks, astronomers haven’t witnessed a collision before.

Other comet/asteroid crossbreeds have been seen previously, such as the Comet P/1996 N2 discovered in 1996, but astronomers are keeping a close eye on this latest oddball, as they believe the best explanation is that collision took place between two asteroids deep in space, about 250 million miles away from Earth. If they are right, it will be the first confirmed high-speed crash ever witnessed between massive space rocks.

Sky and Telescope reports that the comet specialists are hoping to observe the strange goings-on with both the Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes. Neither has been given the green light yet, but if/when that happens the observations would be made within the next few days.

Sources: Skymania, Sky & Telescope, Discovery Space


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January 20, 2010 12:55 AM

The given designation P/2010 A doesn’t fit the periodic comet naming scheme. There needs to be a number after the A. A indicates a comet found in the first 15 days of January but alone doesn’t indicate which one. I believe the correct name for those looking up its coordinates is P/2010 A2 (LINEAR). Indicating it was the second comet found in January. If I’m right it is well placed for imagers in the evening sky. Unfortunately I have clouds, and snow forecast for the next 7 days or so.