As an avid fan of astronomy, I certainly enjoy looking into the night sky and basking in the beauty and uncertainty of outer space. It is vast, complicated, and mysterious. We will more than likely never know the full scope of space and everything it has to offer, and maybe we shouldn’t. However, we will always try to make sense of what we do see and know. And recently, there was an incredibly unique moment that had several astronomers puzzled.
Just last week, the Hubble Space Telescope caught a fascinating phenomenon: a binary asteroid. In essence, the asteroid is two asteroid floating in the same gravitational pull. The two asteroid are orbiting each other at a distance of 60 miles. This is the first time that any astronomer has seen such an occurrence in recorded history.
What makes the situation so interesting, aside from the fact that two asteroids are orbiting each other, is that these two objects have separate comas but are each giving off one single trail of dust. Because of this, according to Gizmodo, this strange object is now classified as the first binary asteroid that is also being considered an asteroid belt comet.
Findings like these truly excite me. It proves that we have certainly not seen everything outer space has to offer us.
Scientists believe that the asteroid was, in fact, at one point a single item, but due to its fast rotation, it split apart and became two separate asteroids. The binary asteroid was initially discovered in 2006 by Spacewatch, but the specifics were never discovered. Later, in 2011, astronomers discovered that the object had comet-like tendencies, and so it was designated 288P. Now this year, scientists have realized that the asteroid is two separate objects.
Hopefully scientists will be able to discover much more about the asteroid in the future. Who knows, we could potentially discover ternary asteroids or even other strange and bizarre objects in space. I will certainly keep you updated on any developments in the binary asteroid’s journey.