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News Picks : Hubble images asteroid breakup

By: Physics Today
07 March 2014
Guardian: For the first time, the disintegration of an asteroid has been photographed. Between October 2013 and January of this year, the Hubble Space Telescope captured images of asteroid P/2013 R3 fragmenting into 10 pieces, which then began to drift apart at the leisurely rate of about 1.5 km/h. Because the breakup has been gradual rather than instantaneous, it is unlikely to have been caused by a collision. Sunlight may have increased the asteroid’s rate of rotation and caused it to break into pieces, says David Jewitt of UCLA and coauthor of a paper published in Astrophysical Journal Letters. The asteroid fragments that don’t plunge into the Sun may one day become meteors.

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