Last month an apparent “comet” was discovered in the inner part of the usually asteroidal Main Belt. Early observations quickly uncovered an object that looked less like a comet and more like the result of a traumatic event on an asteroid. Whether that event was due to a collision between 2 small asteroids or the break-up of an asteroid due to rapid rotation has not yet been determined, but these 2 explanations seem to be the most likely. It would be the 1st time we’ve observed either of these processes in real-time. For more on this object, which is still named Comet P/2010 A2 (LINEAR), see the post titled “The Curious Case of Comet LINEAR“.
David Jewitt (UCLA) led a team which used the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) to take the highest resolution images of the “comet” yet. [See the HST press release here.] Ground-based images have not recorded much detail in the dust trail. The superior resolution of HST (it really helps to observe above the Earth’s atmosphere) fines a number of criss-crossing linear features. The remains of the asteroid that released the dust can be seen as the faint star leading (to the lower left) the dust trail. Hopefully data from HST as well as an assortment of other telescopes will allow modelers to determine what caused the event. I’m sure this will not be the last update on this unique object.