What?? This is a space blog by a space geek, what do you expect?
Wow. Just, Wow!
So, what in the name of Spacers is that?
That, my dear Spacers, is an object called P/2010 A2. It is the aftermath of two asteroids that smashed into each other at over 5km a second - an impact with as much energy as several of our current nuclear bombs, but without the whole radioactivity thing of course. This incredible new image from the newly refurbished Hubble Space Telescope shows that there is not much left of the two objects involved. I'm no image expert, but from reading the analysis it appears that the front is a collection of debris, whilst the tail is being caused by dust blown away from the site by the solar wind.
So, should I be worried about this?
No, not at all. There is no danger to Earth at all from this event as it is too far away, far beyond the orbit of Mars. However, it is another example of something we didn't know about - two previously unknown asteroids. There are likely many more objects that we will find in the coming years as our array of instruments increases in both quantity and quality - the newest addition, the WISE infrared telescope for example has had an impressive first month. We need to keep our eyes open for and get as complete a picture as possible of the near Earth space environment. The last thing we want is a repeat of the event that caused Meteor Crater in Arizona, which despite being a nice place to visit just around the corner from me, is certainly not something I would like to witness happening - well, maybe from afar and with everyone evacuated to a safe place.
For now, just click that picture above and enjoy P/2010 A2 in its full sized glory.
Happy Smashing, Spacers!
Image credit: NASA, ESA, and D. Jewitt (UCLA)