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Astronomers staring deep into space through the giant Hubble Space Telescope have found that a new asteroid has six comet-like tails.
The faint streaks, which radiate from the asteroid like spokes on a wheel, are generated as the rock streaks through the solar system, shedding dust as it goes.
Unusually, the object, known as P/2013 P5 and likened to a "rotating lawn sprinkler" by experts at Nasa, regularly changes its appearance.
..."This is just an amazing object to us, and almost certainly the first of many more to come."
David Jewitt, an astronomer at the University of California in Los Angeles, said the discovery left his team "dumbfounded".
"We were completely knocked out," he said. "It's hard to believe we're looking at an asteroid."
anything is possible and we shouldn,t always believe they know everything.
[url=http://arxiv-web3.library.cornell.edu/abs/1311.1483]The Extraordinary Multi-Tailed Main-Belt Comet P/2013 P5
David Jewitt, Jessica Agarwal, Harold Weaver, Max Mutchler, Stephen Larson
(Submitted on 6 Nov 2013)
Hubble Space Telescope observations of main-belt comet P/2013 P5 reveal an extraordinary system of six dust tails that distinguish this object from any other. Observations two weeks apart show dramatic morphological change in the tails while providing no evidence for secular fading of the object as a whole. Each tail is associated with a unique ejection date, revealing continued, episodic mass loss from the 0.24+/-0.04 km radius nucleus over the last five months. As an inner-belt asteroid and probable Flora family member, the object is likely to be highly metamorphosed and unlikely to contain ice. The protracted period of dust release appears inconsistent with an impact origin, but may be compatible with a body that is losing mass through a rotational instability. We suggest that P/2013 P5 has been accelerated to breakup speed by radiation torques.