NASA' Hubble space telescope has found an unusual object in the asteroid belt, which has comet-like features, including the bright coma and a long tail.
Two asteroids were seen orbiting each other and exhibiting features of comets. The findings were published in Science journal 'Nature' on Wednesday. According to the reports, this is the first known binary asteroid also classified as a comet.
A group of astronomers used the NASA/ESA telescope to observe the system known as 288P in September 2016, just before it made it closest approach to Sun.
The pictures of 288P are located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter explained that it was actually not a single object, but asteroids of almost the same mass and size, orbiting each other at a distance of about 100 Km. This is breakthrough discovery because they orbit each other and the masses of the objects in such systems can be measured.
288P is thus the first known binary asteroid. It is also classified as a "main-belt comet".
To understand this unique phenomenon, there is need to know the formation and evolution of the whole Solar System. Main-belt comets could explain how water came to Earth. The objects such as 288P are very rare. This kind of objects is significant for future studies.
She explains that observing 288P could also help in reveal some past information. "Surface ice cannot survive in the asteroid belt for the age of the Solar System but can be protected for billions of years by a refractory dust mantle, only a few meters thick," she is quoted as saying by the website.
For only about 5000 years the 288P has existed as a binary system. "The most probable formation scenario of 288P is a breakup due to fast rotation. After that, the two fragments may have been moved further apart by sublimation torques," the astronomer explained.