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Strange asteroid delivers "very big surprise" to scientists by changing color



The Hubble Space Telescope captured this view of asteroid 6478 Gault and its two tails.


NASA, ESA, K. Meech, and J. Kleyna, O. Hainaut

Asteroid 6478 Gault is weird. There is a comet-like sports dust and, even stranger, it changes color from red to blue. "This is the first time scientists have observed an asteroid with color shift in real time," the MIT said in a statement Thursday.

The change was not as dramatic to the naked eye as the octopus or chameleon shifted its colors. Astronomers have witnessed the activity of an asteroid in the near infrared spectrum that is not visible to the human eye.

MIT postdoc Michael Marset called the change "a very big surprise", saying, "We think we are witnessing the loss of the asteroid its reddish dust to space and we see the underlying, fresh blue layers of the asteroid."

located far between Mars and Jupiter. It has been on the radar of astronomers since it first opened in 1

988, but it has not stood out from the crowd until recently. Observations from late 2018 and early 2019 showed that the cosmic rock had kicked out two dusty tails a rarity for an asteroid.

A closer look at 6478 Golt revealed an unexpected change in the color of the asteroid. Researchers suspect that the asteroid is spinning very fast and throwing away its old surface dust to reveal fresh material below. It looks like a cosmic snake throwing away its skin.

The MIT-led research team publishes its findings in the Astrophysical Journal Letters on Friday.


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Asteroid 6478 Gault may not be too long for this universe. NASA said those tails could be "key evidence that Golt is beginning to disintegrate." If it eventually breaks down, it will at least come out in spectacular style.

Originally published on August 30, 2:17 pm PT.


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