Astronomers have found a comet-like object they believe was created by the collision of two asteroids, possible siblings of the rogue rock blamed for killing the dinosaurs millions of years ago.
The object, known as P/2010 A2, was circling about 90 million miles (144 million km) from Earth in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter when it was spotted last week by the Hubble Space Telescope, Reuters informs.
The hubble snap shows a space thingy called P/2010 A2, first picked up by the Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR) sky survey project earlier this month.
NASA describes it as "a comet-like object", but points out that it isn't like a regular comet - a chilly body plunging into the central solar system from its usual home out in the Oort cloud or Kuiper belt, and belching a long tail of hot innards due to the Sun's heat.
Rather, P/2010 A2 is thought to be from the asteroid belt, which harbours many such snowball-esque space lumpkins as well as its well-known flying boulders. NASA says:
The orbit of P/2010 A2 is consistent with membership in the Flora asteroid family, produced by collisional shattering more than 100 million years ago. One fragment of that ancient smashup may have struck Earth 65 million years ago, triggering a mass extinction that wiped out the dinosaurs.
This leaves open the possibility that the complex debris tail is the result of an impact between two bodies, rather than ice simply melting from a parent body.
"If this interpretation is correct, two small and previously unknown asteroids recently collided, creating a shower of debris that is being swept back into a tail from the collision site by the pressure of sunlight," adds UCLA space gubbins brainbox David Jewitt an astronomer at the University of California Los Angeles, Register informs.