Thursday, October 14, 2010

Asteroid Collision Makes Quite a Picture

The dusty wreckage thrown out in the explosive collision of two asteroids has been pictured by spacecraft. The debris stretches for hundreds of thousands of kilometres. US and European scientists tell the journal Nature that a remnant rock about 120m in size sits at the head of this shattered stream of material.

Their investigations using the powerful imaging equipment on the Hubble telescope and the Rosetta probe suggest the pile-up occurred in early 2009. Colin Snodgrass from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Katlenburg-Lindau, Germany, said the event offered a unique observing opportunity for researchers studying the Solar System. "If you look at the literature on 'recent' asteroid collisions, they tend to talk about things occurring in the past million years or so - that's recent on geological timescales. But on the timescales involved in this event, we're really catching it in the moment of happening."

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