NASA’s Hubble telescope has spotted something hurtling through our solar system that honestly feels more at home in a science fiction novel than reality.
Discovered back in 2006, this object was initially just classified as a run-of-the-mill asteroid.
It wasn’t until recently however that Hubble was able to train its eye on the object and discovered something truly bizarre.
What you’re looking at is not one singular asteroid but two, of almost equal size, orbiting each other at a distance of just 60 miles.
Thanks to Hubble’s incredible footage cometary behaviour was also detected making this the first known binary asteroid that is also a main belt comet.
As the asteroid got closer to the Sun, intense heating occurred causing the comet tail that you can see in the animation above.
NASA researchers believe the cosmic twins are just 5,000 years-old and were likely created after a major impact that caused a larger object to split into the two spinning objects we can see now.
Main belt comets are one possible explanation as to how water was brought to a bone dry Earth millions of years ago.
Hubble might be 27-years-old but that hasn’t stopped the ageing space telescope from still providing us with a steady stream of incredible images.
NASA will soon launch the James Webb space telescope, dwarfing Hubble both in terms of size and in technological ability. With a vast mirror it will be able to see further than anything before it.
7 Incredible Discoveries By Cassini
Cassini has been getting up close to Saturn's planet-sized moon, Titan. Taking incredible photographs and learning more about its dunes, mountains and seas of pure liquid methane (definitely not for swimming). Not to mention the 95% nitrogen atmosphere.
Just like our home planet, Saturn has powerful magnetic fields at its poles that create shimmering auroras, and for the first time Cassini was able to capture these incredible (and pretty intimidating) images of the glowing-pink Southern lights.
Not only are Saturn's poles decorated with beautiful auroras, they also have violent swirling storms with an (unusual) six-sided jet stream that creates these hexagonal weather patterns. But you don't want to get too close, as NASA found the eye of hurricanes on Saturn are 50 times wider than those on Earth.
Hyperion is the largest of Saturn's "potato-shaped" moons and is likely to be the result of a violent collision that shattered a larger object into pieces. The sponge-like appearance means it has an unusually low density for such a large object -- about half that of water - and any material that comes into contact with it gets blown off, never to return.
Pre-Cassini, scientists didn't understand why Encleadus was the brightest world in the solar system. But Cassini found it has a huge ocean of salty liquid water hidden beneath a surface of ice with exploding hydrothermal vents that send sporadic plumes of water shooting out into space. It is also one of the most promising locations for extra terrestrial life...
Saturn's two-toned moon, Lapetus, is surrounded in a cloud of reddish dust that gets swept around in orbit giving it a hellish colour. But that's not the strangest find, for the first time Cassini photographed a topographic ridge that runs along the equator. No one knows yet whether this is a mountain or a crack in the surface.
Cassini's final mission has required getting closer to Saturn than ever before, dropping from a normal altitude of 1,000,000km above to just 120,000km. Although this did require Cassini to enter a "death plunge" and sacrifice itself, it has also resulted in the most intricate images of Saturn's B rings ever recorded, clearly showing the spiral density waves.