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Comet-like tail observed from “rock comet” Phaethon

Posted on Sep 10, 2013 in News

phaethonUsing images captured by NASA’s STEREO spacecraft, UCLA Prof. David Jewitt and researcher Jing Li have detected a comet-like tail around the asteroid Phaethon.  The iconic plumes of comets are normally created when cometary ice sublimates in the heat of the Sun, creating a dusty tail.  However, Phaethon’s orbit takes it so close to the Sun that all the ice should have been completely scorched away long ago.  Instead, Phaethon’s dust tail may have originated from dry, disintegrated rock on the surface of the asteroid pushed into space by solar radiation.  Learn more about this recent discovery here.