CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – The Hubble Space Telescope has captured the first pictures of a disintegrating asteroid.
Asteroid P/2013 R3 was detected in September in the asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. It appeared as a fuzzy object. Further observations by ground telescopes revealed three bodies. The Hubble telescope uncovered 10 objects, each with dusty tails. The four largest fragments are up to 656 feet across.
Scientists say the asteroid began coming apart early last year. They theorize sunlight is slowing pulling the asteroid apart by increasing its rotation.
A planetary scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles, David Jewitt, led the investigation. He says seeing the rock "fall apart before our eyes is pretty amazing."
The pictures were released Thursday.