I was e-mailed this morning by my supervisor with something particularly interesting. I noticed this at a glance through my Google Reader last night, but I hadn’t really managed to read through too much then…..but wow, something definitely worth reading about is this article by Science@NASA. I highly recommend them as they are an amazing news service for astronomy and well worth subscribing to in their newsletters, RSS feeds or whatever form you wish to obtain the latest information. http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2010/02feb_asteroidcollision.htm
As you may know, or may have read in my blogs I am starting a PhD in comets, in particular, optical and thermal-infrared observations of cometary nuclei. David Jewitt, P.I. of these observations, is a legendry expert in this field and I have read many of his papers so far throughout my project. I find it particularly fascinating to see something big emerge here in my field.
The recently installed (as of 14th May 2009) Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) onboard Hubble shows the main nucleus of P/2010 A2 lies outside its own halo of dust. This has never been seen before in a comet-like object. The nucleus is estimated to be 460 feet in diameter.
“If this interpretation is correct, two small and previously unknown asteroids recently collided, creating a shower of debris that is being swept back into a tail from the collision site by the pressure of sunlight,” Jewitt says.
I personally find this image truly amazing.
Right: A full-context view of P/2010 A2. Credit: NASA, ESA, and D. Jewitt (University of California, Los Angeles). Photo No. STScI-2010-07 [larger image]
The article is worth a read… so check it out! 😀