Scientists have discovered in the solar system a strange object 2005 QN173: it is half asteroid, half comet. The unique find was reported by specialists from the Institute of Planetary Sciences.
Astronomers have identified a rare solar system object that has the characteristics of both an asteroid and a comet and named it 2005 QN173. It orbits like any other asteroid, but most are rocks that don’t change much as they pass through the solar system.
But not the object QN173 2005, which according to new research was first discovered in 2005 (hence the name). It looks like a comet, dropping dust as it moves, and this “asteroid” has a long, thin tail. This means that it is covered with ice material evaporating into space – this is usually the case with comets. At the same time, comets usually move along an ellipse, regularly approaching the Sun and moving away from it.
“This object is a comet if we are talking about the physical parameters of the object. But at the same time, the “comet” for some reason moves in the orbit of the asteroid, – said Henry Xie, the lead author of the new study and planetary scientist from the Institute of Planetary Sciences. “This duality makes this object very interesting.”
Despite its comet-like characteristics, the object’s orbit definitely matches the orbit of an asteroid: it slowly revolves around the Sun in the outer part of the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, making a circular revolution about once every 5 years.
But this summer, astronomers, looking at data collected by the July 7th Asteroid Impact Alert System (ATLAS) in Hawaii, noticed that the object had a tail. Scientists checked previous observations and again noticed a tail in images collected on June 11 by the Palomar Observatory in California. At the same time, the object continued to move like an asteroid.