Scientists have been baffled to observe one of the most unusual objects in outer space. This peculiar object is, in fact, composed of two different asteroids which orbit each other. These two asteroids build a formation called binary asteroid, which also shares features with a comet. It is reportedly the first time in history that a space object is noted to be both an asteroid and a comet.
The binary asteroid is a comet at the same time
The unusual binary asteroid is known as 288P and was first spotted in 2011. However, the object couldn’t be studied thoroughly, as its faraway location didn’t allow it. As it got a little closer to Earth, astronomers managed to get a better view of it with the help of the Hubble Space Telescope. The scientist who led the study, Jessica Agarwal from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, published a paper on the subject in the journal Nature.
The binary asteroid is placed in the asteroid belt stretching from Mars to Jupiter, and is, at the same time, a main belt comet. Its two smaller asteroids have a diameter of about 0.6 miles and are placed quite far apart from each other. After close observations, researchers established there are around 62 miles around them.
Researchers were lucky to spot the object
Also, the interesting phenomena in the binary asteroid do not stop here. Due to intense heating from the sun, the ice present on the two smaller asteroid sublimated. This is what usually happens on comets, and this is how the tail of the formation was created.
Researchers estimated the binary asteroid has existed in this dual form for about 5,000 years. However, there aren’t many similar objects in the solar system, and spotting this one was pure luck. Therefore, scientists are skeptical about finding another binary comet too soon.
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