Saturday, November 21, 2015

University of Hawai`i astronomers detect asteroid collision beyond Mars.

There’s a lot of empty space in space, but there’s a fair amount of stuff zipping around in it.

Collisions are rare, but inevitably, they happen—it accounts for craters on the Moon, and some of the features on the Earth.

(Image: Main-belt asteroid (493) Griseldis with temporary tail. Credit: David Tholen, Scott Sheppard of Carnegie Institution, Chad Trujillo of Gemini Observatory.)

And recently, a University of Hawai`i telescope helped spot one out farther from the sun in our own solar system.
Out in the Asteroid Belt, between Mars and Jupiter, on March 17, astronomers using the 8-meter Subaru Telescope on Mauna Kea noticed that an asteroid named Griseldis had suddenly grown a tail.

Several days later, the 6.5-meter Magellan telescope in Chile showed the tail was still there, but smaller.

Images taken by the University of Hawai`i’s 2.2-meter telescope on Mauna Kea showed that the tail did not exist back in 2010 or 2012, and that it had disappeared by March 24. Magellan on April 18 and May 21 also showed the tail was gone.

University of Hawai`i astronomer David Tholen reported the results at a Nov. 12 session of the Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society.

The sudden appearance and quick disappearance of a tail suggests something crashed into the asteroid, caused a plume of dust, which then dissipated, Tholen said.

“The observations are consistent with the occurrence of an impact event on this asteroid,” the research group working on the project said.

The University of Hawai`i press release on the event
is here. 

© Jan TenBruggencate 2015

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