(Phys.org) —Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have identified what they can only describe as a never-before-seen "weird and freakish object" in the asteroid belt that looks like a rotating lawn sprinkler.
Normal asteroids should appear simply as tiny points of light. But this asteroid, designated P/2013 P5, has six comet-like tails of dust radiating from it like spokes on a wheel.
Because nothing like this has ever been seen before, astronomers are scratching their heads to find an adequate explanation for its out-of-this-world appearance.
The asteroid could possibly have been spun up if the pressure of sunlight exerted a torque on the body. If the asteroid's spin rate became fast enough, Jewitt said, the asteroid's weak gravity would no longer be able to hold it together. Dust might avalanche downslope towards the equator, and maybe shatter and fall off, eventually drifting into space to make a tail. So far, only a small fraction of the main mass, perhaps 100 to 1,000 tons of dust, has been lost. The 700-foot-radius nucleus is thousands of times more massive. Read more at: phys.org...
“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.”
Astronomers must be giddy as all be right now.
Plot Twist, it turns out it's an alien spacecraft from one of those billions of earth-like planets in our solar system.
A rapid rotation sounds reasonable. It could also be some hidden deposits of ice that somehow got exposed to the vacuum and sun's heat. That could've happened due to gravitational tug from other bodies in the Solar System, an impact, or even the Sun's activity.
Regardless, it will be interesting to learn the chemical makeup of the expelled material though spectroscopy.
Electric Universe crowd will jump on this as the evidence of plasma discharges, but why would an asteroid that existed where it is for millions or even billions of years show this activity? It's electric charge should have long been stabilised.
LOL. I believe sick to the stomach is a better bet. That's the feeling you get when a "standard" scientific model breaks.