Asteroid March 2014: NASA's Hubble Space Telescope Captures P/2013 R3 Asteroid Disintegration

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NASA's (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) Hubble Space Telescope has captured the disintegration of the P/2013 R3 Asteroid. The Guardian report claims that the images captured between October 2013 and mid-January 2014 reveal the asteroid breaking up into smaller fragments with astronomers claiming the four largest remains are up to 200 yards in radius. 

The experts, who have been observing the asteroid, revealed that the P/2013 R3 asteroid started to fall apart in early 2013 with new fragments continuing to come into sight. "Seeing this rock fall apart before our eyes is pretty amazing," stated David Jewitt, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles.

The professor explained that an asteroid impact could not have been the cause of its disintegration because an "instantaneous and violent breakup" would have resulted. "The breakup can't be attributed to the gravitational pull of a nearby body either because there are no other bodies nearby" Professor Jewitt said in the Los Angeles Times Science report.

Professor David Jewitt, the leader of the astronomical forensics investigation into the asteroid, and his research team suggested in the published "Astrophysical Journal Letters" that the asteroid's disintegration is caused by the "imperceptible force of tiny photons that have been radiating away from the asteroid toward the sun for billions of years."

The professor further explained: "Those departing photons put a little push on the asteroid. The force is really very weak, but time is long." Experts have been talking about for years about this kind of disruption but they were not able to consistently examine it.

The experts continued to discuss in the "Astrophysical Journal Letters" that the fragile comet nuclei have been noticed to disintegrate as they get in close proximity to the sun but that kind of disintegration has not been observed in the asteroid belt. These experts claimed that the asteroid's debris can provide a "rich source of meteoroids" in the future with most plunging into the Sun while only a small fraction possibly entering the Earth's atmosphere one day as meteors.

The higher resolution on NASA's Hubble Space Telescope further revealed that the asteroid's breakup resulted to 10 fragments in the dust cloud that were moving away from each other at a snail's pace. "It looks like the asteroid is continuing to break up. The more recent the pictures, the more pieces we see," Professor David Jewitt shared. Click HERE to see photos and video on the asteroid P/2013 R3 breakup.

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