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News Release Archive:

News Release 32 of 964

March 6, 2014 10:00 AM (EST)

News Release Number: STScI-2014-15

Hubble Witnesses an Asteroid Mysteriously Disintegrating

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Image: Disintegration of Asteroid P/2013 R3

Disintegration of Asteroid P/2013 R3STScI-PRC2014-15

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ABOUT THIS IMAGE:

This series of Hubble Space Telescope images reveals the breakup of an asteroid over a period of several months starting in late 2013. The largest fragments are up to 180 meters (200 yards) in radius, each with "tails" caused by dust lifted from their surfaces and pushed back by the pressure of sunlight. The ten pieces of the asteroid drift apart slowly and show a range of breakup times, suggesting that the disintegration cannot be explained by a collision with another asteroid. One idea for the breakup is that the asteroid was accelerated by sunlight to spin at a fast enough rate to fly apart by centrifugal force. The images were taken in visible light with Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3.

Object Name: P/2013 R3

Image Type: Astronomical/Annotated

Credit: NASA, ESA, and D. Jewitt (University of California, Los Angeles)

NEWS RELEASE IMAGES

The above montage includes these images:

Hubble Observation of P/2013 R3 - October 29, 2013 Image Type: Astronomical Hubble Observation of P/2013 R3 - October 29, 2013 Hubble Observation of P/2013 R3 - November 15, 2013 Image Type: Astronomical Hubble Observation of P/2013 R3 - November 15, 2013 Hubble Observation of P/2013 R3 - December 13, 2013 Image Type: Astronomical Hubble Observation of P/2013 R3 - December 13, 2013 Hubble Observation of P/2013 R3 - January 14, 2014 Image Type: Astronomical Hubble Observation of P/2013 R3 - January 14, 2014

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