Hubble records rare asteroid breakup while rest of world notices there are lots of rocks.

Asteroid scares are nothing new, but three asteroids in a twenty-four hour period have news headlines buzzing.

Another Asteroid! Third Space Rock Buzzes Past Earth (NBC News):

The 25-foot-wide (8-meter-wide) asteroid 2014 EC came within 38,300 miles (61,600 kilometers) of our planet at 4:21 p.m. ET, NASA officials said. For comparison, the moon orbits Earth at an average distance of 239,000 miles (385,000 kilometers).

[…]But Thursday’s close encounter was special in one sense — it came just one day after two other space-rock flybys. On Wednesday afternoon, the 100-foot-wide (30-meter-wide) asteroid 2014 DX110 zipped within 217,000 miles (350,000 kilometers) of Earth.

Note the anomaly here is in the time-spacing between close flybys, not in the flybys themselves. The number of close-passing asteroids in 2014 will not likely deviate significantly from the normal number of flybys.

Also of note regarding 2014 EC is that it was discovered Tuesday evening, and made its pass the following evening.

Meanwhile, Hubble Witnesses Mysterious Breakup of Asteroid (Discovery News):

Hubble resolved the slow-moving debris of an asteroid that is in the process of breaking up. The asteroid, designated P/2013 R3, hasn’t hit anything, as the fragments are moving too slow — it just seems to be falling apart. This is unprecedented, never before has an asteroid been seen disintegrating to this degree in the asteroid belt.

Hubble’s observations allowed researchers to determine that the reason for the breakup was the Yarkovsky–O’Keefe–Radzievskii–Paddack effect (that’s a mouthful), which causes momentum and heat changes as a result of “infrared radiation escaping from a body warmed by the Sun.”

A pre-publication copy of the paper is accessible at arXiv.org.

Just goes to show, it’s a good idea to look up at the sky every once in a while. There are some interesting things going on out there, and you don’t have to wait for the next asteroid.

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  1 comment for “Hubble records rare asteroid breakup while rest of world notices there are lots of rocks.

  1. Brian
    March 8, 2014 at 11:00 AM

    You should have seen Weather.com’s news item title: ASTEROID HEADED FOR EARTH! Sensationalist much?

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