At this point in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, there are about 800,000 objects, and once a year it is a rare phenomenon — the destruction of one of the asteroids under the influence of sunlight. The process begins during uneven heating of its surface so that the object begins to rotate faster and a centrifugal force greater than the force of gravity. This is what recently happened with the asteroid Galt (6478 Gault) — the Hubble space telescope, interacting with the devices from other countries, filmed two tails consisting of the debris.
Asteroid Galt was opened in 1988 by the planetary scientists Eugene and Carolyn shoemaker. The name was given in honor of the geologist Donald Gault, who made an enormous contribution to the study of craters on Mars, the moon and other space objects. The width of the asteroid is about 4-9 miles, the longest of the tail is estimated at 800 000 kilometers and the smaller of four times less. They were formed in the course of some events around 28 October and 30 December 2018.
Scientists believe that the destruction occurred due to exposure to sunlight, in the course of the YORP effect. The assumption of a collision with another space object was immediately rejected because there is no object nearby dust clouds formed after strong shocks. Thus, self-destruction remains the most realistic explanation of a phenomenon that is extremely rare. According to researchers, the tails of the asteroid will be visible for another few months, and then the debris will be scattered in outer space.
Seeing the two tails was the first sign of instability of the asteroid. The study of this phenomenon will allow astronomers to carefully study the structure of asteroids, which then allows a new look at the history of planetary formation in the early era of the Solar system.