It was an international team of astronomers who recently observed two asteroids that revolved around each other, located between Mars and Jupiter, and with characteristics similar to those of a comet.
This international team of astronomers observed two asteroids rotating around each other, between Mars and Jupiter, with characteristics of a comet (a long tail and a shining head), this week the European space agency ESA announced.
The celestial body was observed with the aid of the Hubble Space Telescope, operated by ESA and the US NASA congener, with the results of the observation to be published this week in the journal Nature. According to the team, led by astronomers in Germany, this is the first asteroid binary system classified as a comet (from the main asteroid waist).
The 288P binary system, located in the Asteroid Waist between Mars and Jupiter, was observed in detail by astronomers in September 2016, when it was close enough to Earth before making its closest approach to the Sun.
The images captured by Hubble allowed the researchers to conclude that the two asteroids revolve around each other at a distance of about 100 kilometers, and are almost the same mass and the same size. All observations also revealed that asteroids have continuous activity similar to that of a comet.
“We have left strong traces of sublimation of the ice due to increased solar heat, similar to the way a comet’s tail is created”, said team coordinator Jessica Agarwal, from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Germany.
So, for scientists, understanding the origin and evolution of comets in the main waist of asteroids – asteroids that orbit between Mars and Jupiter and that have cometlike activity – is fundamental to understanding the formation and evolution of the entire system Solar.
Comets of the main waist of asteroids may answer the question of how water came to Earth (recent studies have pointed to water coming through cold asteroids, not comets).
According to the group of researchers, the 288P binary system is newer than the asteroids that make it up, is about 5,000 years old.