Scientists have identified unusual solar system objects with both asteroid and comet characteristics.
This object, called the 2005 QN173, is orbiting like any other object. asteroidHowever, most of such objects are rocks that do not change much when looping through the solar system. According to a new study, the 2005 QN173 (hence the name), first discovered in 2005, is not. instead, Comet, Emits dust on the move, showing a long, thin tail. This suggests that the comet usually evaporates into space covered with icy material, even though it follows an elliptical orbit that approaches and recedes on a regular basis. Sun..
“Although it also has an asteroid orbit, it is likely to be ice and fits the physical definition of a comet in that it emits dust into space,” said the new research leader. The author and planetary scientist Henry Sea is the Institute of Planetary Sciences, Said in a statement.. “This duality and blurring of the boundaries between what was previously thought to be two completely separate types of objects (asteroids and comets) is an important part of what makes these objects very interesting. . ”
Despite its comet-like features, the orbit of the object is undoubtedly the orbit of an asteroid. It gently loops around the sun in the outer part of the sun. Asteroid belt It lies between Mars and Jupiter and rotates about once every five years.
However, astronomers examining the data collected by the Asteroid Terrestrial-Collision Final Warning System (ATLAS) survey in Hawaii on July 7 this summer noticed that the object had a tail. rice field. This feature manifested itself in additional observations made by the telescope at Lowell Observatory, Arizona. Scientists then confirmed previous observations made at other facilities and rediscovered the tail in images collected by the Zwicky Transient Facility in California on June 11.
In these observations, the object was closest on May 14, that is, it passed the perihelion passage and moved away from the Sun (the approach of the comet is much more dramatic than the typical asteroid in the main belt, but all. The object is in orbit The sun moves closer and further away from the sun in the process of orbit. Perihelion of the earthFor example, early January. )
Meanwhile, other scientists examined the 2005 QN173 observations collected by a dark energy camera in July 2016. This is when the object was last around the perihelion. And behold, I found the tail here as well.
The activity around the perihelion is consistent with the comet’s profile. As the heat from the sun increases, frozen ice turns into gas. This is a process called sublimation. A typical comet literally spends most of its time away from the Sun enough distance to freeze its activity.
“Most comets cross the orbit of Neptune and come from the cold outer solar system, where they spend most of their time. Their very elongated orbits approach the Sun and Earth for a short period of time at a time.” “When they are close enough to the Sun, they heat up, releasing gas and dust as a result of the sublimation of ice, producing a comet-related blurry appearance and often a spectacular tail,” Sea said.
Of the 500,000 objects that scientists have examined in the asteroid belt, this is the eighth object that scientists have confirmed to be active multiple times, and one of the 20 suspicious “main belt comets.” It is one.
New studies include old observations excavated from archives of various instruments first collected between 2004 and 2020 when the comet was inactive to better understand the object itself. It was. According to the statement, these observations suggest that the comet’s nucleus or head is about 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) wide.
Scientists then incorporated fresh observations of objects made by numerous instruments in July and August of this year, with the aim of better understanding the strange activity of the active asteroid. In particular, researchers were able to measure the tail of an object that was less than twice as long in July, 450,000 miles (720,000 kilometers) long. Distance from the earth to the moon..
However, despite its immense length, the tail is not very wide, bringing new puzzles to scientists.
“This very narrow tail indicates that the dust particles are barely floating from the nucleus at a very slow rate, and the flow of gas escaping from the comet, which normally lifts dust from the comet into space, is very weak.” Said Hsieh.
“Such slow velocities will usually make it difficult for dust to escape from the gravity of the nucleus itself, so this suggests that something else may be helping the dust escape.” Hsieh added. One explanation might be that the nucleus is spinning so fast that it shoots extra dust into space, but scientists don’t have enough observations to make sure. ..
Scientists can see objects from the Southern Hemisphere, marking the February 2026 calendar, which can reach distance from the Sun and become active again.
This study was accepted in The Astrophysical Journal Letters and is described in a treatise that can be read as: Preprint At arXiv.org; The study was also presented on Monday (October 4th), virtually this week at the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Sciences.
Strange solar system objects are part of asteroids and part of comets
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