Current Weather
The Spy FM

Astronomers Find Bizarre ‘Lawn Sprinkler’ Asteroid

Filed by KOSU News in Science.
November 8, 2013

Astronomers using both ground- and space-based telescopes have discovered a new kind of asteroid that sports not one, but six comet-like tails, and has been described as looking something like a rotating lawn sprinkler.

P/2013 P5 was first spotted with the Pan-STARRS 1 telescope at the top of Haleakala volcano in Maui, Hawaii, in August and then followed up with more detailed observations using the Hubble Space Telescope.

The object is located in the Asteroid Belt, a region of the solar system between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, where space rocks reside in abundance. Most of them are pretty ordinary, but with P/2013 P5, “We were literally dumbfounded when we saw it,” says lead investigator David Jewitt of the University of California at Los Angeles.

“Even more amazing, tail structures change dramatically in just 13 days as it belches out dust,” Jewitt says. “That also caught us by surprise. It’s hard to believe we’re looking at an asteroid.”

According to the study abstract in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, Jewitt, Agarwal, et. al, believe the object “appears inconsistent with an impact origin” but may instead be “losing mass through a rotational instability.” says:

“In the time between Hubble’s first observation on Sept. 10 and its second peek at the asteroid on Sept. 23, the tails appeared to have completely swung around. Jewitt said he and his colleagues were ‘completely knocked out’ by this finding.”

‘In astronomy, where you find one, you eventually find a whole bunch more,’ Jewitt said in a statement. ‘This is just an amazing object to us, and almost certainly the first of many more to come.’”

[Copyright 2013 NPR]

Leave a Reply

5PM to 7PM A Prairie Home Companion

A Prairie Home Companion

Live every Saturday night, A Prairie Home Companion features comedy sketches, music and Garrison Keillor's signature monologue, "The News from Lake Wobegon."

Listen Live Now!

7PM to 8PM Folk Salad

Folk Salad

Folk Salad Hosts Richard Higgs and Scott Aycock play an eclectic mix of Folk, Singer/songwriter, Americana, Bluegrass, Blues, Red Dirt, and anything else we happen to like that week.

View the program guide!

8PM to 9PM For the Sake of the Song

For the Sake of the Song

Greg Johnson, owner of The Blue Door in Oklahoma City gathers the best Red Dirt musicians in the region for his show.

View the program guide!

Upcoming Events in your area (Submit your event today!)

Streaming audio and podcasts

Stream KOSU on your smartphone

Phone Streaming

SmartPhone listening options on this page are intended for many iPhones, Blackberries, etc. with low-cost software applications available to listen to our full-time web streams, both News on KOSU-1 and Classical on KOSU-2.

Learn more about our complete range of streaming services

We're perfecting the patient experience - Stillwater Medical Center