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The long-known celestial body behaves strangely - is the asteroid a comet?

The long-known celestial body behaves strangely – is the asteroid a comet?

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A long-known celestial body suddenly does something unexpected – it raises the question: (248370) 2005 QN173 Not an asteroid, but a comet?

Duson / Frankfurt – Asteroids and comets are actually two completely different celestial bodies that have basically one thing in common: both have survived since the formation of the solar system. Other than that, comets are designed like “dirty snowballs” that consist of loose rocks that are joined by dust and ice. As a comet approaches the Sun, a portion of the ice rises and turns directly into gas – the comet characteristic of comets. Asteroids, on the other hand, are rocks that usually orbit the sun without growing a tail.

In fact, there are asteroids and comets Astronomy So completely different celestial bodies. Occasionally, researchers will find an object that does not fit into either category or both. The latter applies to the celestial body with the cryptic designation (248370) 2005 QN173. The celestial body, discovered in 2005, has long been mistaken for an asteroid. It has not been visible for a long time in the asteroid belt (also known as the main belt) between Mars and Jupiter. But now researchers at the Institute of Planetary Sciences (PSI) in Duson (Arizona) have announced that the asteroid is active, that is, it has surpassed and formed a tail. The Related study Published by the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Object (248370) 2005 QN173 can be found in the upper left (long path). It is located in the main belt, where the asteroids are actually located, but it looks like a comet.

© Henry H. H (BSI), Jana Pitichov (NASA / JBL-Caltech)

Comet or asteroid? Celestial body (248370) 2005 QN173 both visible

“Its behavior confirms that its function can be seen in the sublimation of ice products,” explains Henry Hsih, the study’s lead author from BSI. This asteroid is called the “Main Belt Comet”, Hsieh explained while presenting his study at a virtual meeting of the American Astronomical Society. “It’s one of about 20 major belt comets currently confirmed or suspected,” Cheeh said. Some of the 20 objects were found to be active only once, while the function for the celestial body (248370) 2005 QN137 has already been observed several times.

“247370 is an asteroid and, more precisely, a major belt asteroid recognized as a major comet”. “It meets the physical definitions of a comet because it blows ice and dust in space, even if it has the orbit of an asteroid,” Hsih continues. “This duality and the blurring of the lines between two completely different types of objects – asteroids and comets – is an essential part of making these objects more interesting,” says Hsih.

Major Belt Comet and Asteroid One: (248370) 2005 QN173 Exciting for Research

Hsieh’s research team found that the core of the comet, which is surrounded by a cloud of dust, is 3.2 kilometers in diameter. As of July 2021, the comet’s tail was more than 720,000 km long and about 1,400 km wide. The very short tail shows that the dust particles are moving away from the center at a very low speed and that the gas flow of the comet is very weak. This suggests that something else helps the dust escape from the comet’s nucleus – the nucleus spins faster, thus throwing dust into space. However, more observations are needed to confirm this, says Hsih.

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PSI researcher Hsieh and his colleague David Juvid discovered a new class of belt belt comets in 2006. Rare comets in the main belt are particularly exciting to research: There is a theory that asteroid impacts once brought large parts of the water to Earth. The exit of the comets in the main belt means that they still have water, which may be useful targets for future exploration. (Tab)

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