Monday, December 13, 2010

Asteroid 596 Scheila Becomes a Comet

Over the weekend it was reported that main-belt asteroid 596 Scheila was experiencing a comet-like outburst. Solar system astronomers Michael Hicks and Kenneth Lawrence from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory happened to have observing time on Palomar’s 200-inch Hale Telescope last Saturday night and early Sunday morning they captured this image of "asteroid" 596 Scheila looking very much like a comet:

The two main ideas behind Scheila’s cometary outburst are that it is either a rare comet with an orbit inside the asteroid belt that started out gassing or that it has recently suffered a collision like the one in 2009 that befell an asteroid known as P/2010 A2.

Stay tuned.

Thanks to Mike & Ken for being kind enough to share this raw image of the event so soon after it was acquired!

For a related post see also, The Asteroid that Became a Comet and the Comet that Became an Asteroid.

No comments: