Hubble Space Telescope by NASA was released in Earth’s orbit in 1990. This is one of the most multipurpose mission of NASA that is not focused on one single aspect but lays focus on all aspects. It been twenty-seven years of duty yet Hubble Space Telescope keeps on discovering more scientific aspects outside and within our Solar System.
Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research led a team of international astronomers who made a striking discovery by using Hubble Space Telescope. They found the presence of a unique object between Mars and Jupiter. The unique object was found inside of the Main Asteroid Belt or 288P. The asteroid is known for behaving like a comet and was first discovered in September 2016.
The comet-like tails is a result of the sublimation (a process which causes solid to turn directly into vapours without undergoing the liquid stage) that occurs when the asteroid comes close to the sun. It has been out there for more than 5000 years.
In Nature, the study found its space under the title ‘A Binary Main Belt Comet’. There were various astronomers involved in the research including those from University of California, Lunar and Planetary Laboratory (Arizona University), Space Telescope Science Institute, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory etc.
The images sent by Hubble indicated that there wasn’t just one but two asteroids orbiting each other. The distance between the two is said to be 100 km and the asteroids are of similar mass and size. This asteroid is aptly classified as main belt comet since this is the first ever comet to show such signs of the tail formation. The increase in heat produced by sun caused the water ice there to undergo sublimation.
This asteroid is truly unique because of all the features that set it apart from others. No other known asteroid has been known to show similar mass and size, or orbit at such a distance, or show comet tails or even show eccentric orbits. The history of binary asteroids can be clearly indicated by 288P. It is said to contain ice since the early onset of the solar system. The unique properties cannot be explained as a onetime thing or common for all the binary comets.
To find out more, scientists need more of 288P type asteroids. But the presence of 288P is an opportunity to know more about Mars and Jupiter’s origin.
This unique object might be the key to solving some of the mysteries of our solar system. This is another step in understanding the origin and evolution of solar system, life on Earth etc.