These four Hubble Space Telescope images, taken over a five-month period, show the odd-shaped debris that likely came from a collision between two asteroids.
The Hubble images, taken from January to May 2010 with Wide Field Camera 3, reveal a point-like object about 400 feet (120 meters) wide, with a long, flowing dust tail behind a never-before-seen X pattern, which remained intact. Particle sizes in the tail are estimated to vary from about 1/25th of an inch (a millimeter) to an inch (2.5 centimeters) in diameter. The tail contains enough dust to make a ball 65 feet (20 meters) wide, most of it blown out of the bigger body by the impact-caused explosion.
The asteroid debris, dubbed P/2010 A2, appears to be shrinking in each successive image because Earth's faster orbit is carrying the planet away from the object. Between January and May, Earth rotated more than 100 million miles away from the debris field. The object was 102 million miles from Earth when Hubble first observed it in January 2010.
P/2010 A2 was found cruising around the asteroid belt, a reservoir of millions of rocky bodies between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.
The images were taken in visible light and artificially colored blue.