P/2013 P5: Newly discovered asteroid with six ‘tails’
NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope spotted an asteroid with six comet-like tails of dust radiating from it.
The asteroid named P/2013 P5 is different from all other known asteroids as it appears similar to a rotating lawn sprinkler and has surprised astronomers with its unusual look.
Besides, its tail structures change dramatically in just 13 days as it spews out dust. P/2013 P5 has been throwing out dust periodically for at least five months. Astronomers are of the view that it is possible the asteroid’s rotation rate increased to the point where its surface started ejecting out. According to scientists, the asteroid looks like a fragment of a larger asteroid that broke apart in a collision roughly 200 million years ago.
What is a Comet?
A comet is an icy small Solar System body. When a comet passes close to the Sun, it heats up and begins to eject gas, forming a visible atmosphere or coma, and sometimes also a tail. These phenomena are due to the effects of solar radiation and the solar wind upon the nucleus of the comet.
How Comets differ from Asteroids?
Comets are different from asteroids as comets have an extended, gravitationally unbound atmosphere surrounding their central nucleus. This atmosphere has parts termed the coma (the central atmosphere immediately surrounding the nucleus) and the tail (a typically linear section consisting of dust or gas blown out from the coma by the Sun’s light pressure or outstreaming solar wind plasma). However, extinct comets that have passed close to the Sun many times have lost nearly all of their volatile ices and dust and may appear similar to small asteroids.Asteroids are considered to have a different origin from comets, having formed inside the orbit of Jupiter rather than in the outer Solar System.