Astronomers using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope have observed a unique and baffling object in the asteroid belt that looks like a rotating lawn sprinkler or badminton shuttlecock. While this object is on an asteroid-like orbit, it looks like a comet, and is sending out tails of dust into space.
“We were literally dumbfounded when we saw it,” said lead investigator David Jewitt of the University of California at Los Angeles, USA. “Even more amazingly, its tail structures change dramatically in just 13 days as it belches out dust. That also caught us by surprise. It’s hard to believe we’re looking at an asteroid.”
Normal asteroids appear as tiny points of light. But this asteroid, designated P/2013 P5, has six comet-like tails of dust radiating from it like the spokes on a wheel. It was first spotted in August of this year as an unusually fuzzy-looking object by astronomers using the Pan-STARRS 1 telescope in Hawaii.