East Hawaii News

Researchers Say March Main-Belt Asteroid was ‘Impacted’

November 18, 2015, 2:26 PM HST
* Updated November 18, 2:28 PM
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A research group, led by University of Hawai’i at Manoa astronomer David Tholen recently presented their work regarding the main-belt asteroid being impacted by an object in March of this year.

The group reported the results of their study at the annual meeting of the Division of Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society near Washington, D.C. last week.

On March 17, observations were taken with the 8-meter Subaru Telescope on Mauna Kea that showed that the asteroid has “an extended feature,” which is essentially a “tail.”

The tail observed in this instance was not in the antisolar direction, which would be the general observation if it were a comet tail, as they flow in the direction opposite from the sun due to the solar wind.

Researchers say the extended feature proved to be a short-lives phenomenon.

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Using the 6.5-m Magellan telescope four nights later, the extension was still detected but was weaker. The telescope took exposures on March 24, April 19 and May 21 did not show the feature. Archived images from 2010 and 2012 didn’t show it either.

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Members of the research group, which include Carnegie Institution’s Scott Sheppard and Gemini Observatory’s Chad Trujillo concluded that “the observations are consistent with the occurrence of an impact even on this asteroid.”

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