Comets > Overview: Tales of… Disintegrating asteroid

of "Tales of … An asteroid mysteriously disintegrating as Hubble watches"
Tales of … An asteroid mysteriously disintegrating as Hubble watches tells the story of the breakup of asteroid P/2013 R3. This asteroid may be breaking apart due to the effects of sunlight, which causes its rotation to slowly increase. Eventually, the asteroid is gently pulled apart, like grapes falling off a stem. Astronomers think the asteroid experienced numerous, non-destructive collisions in the past that weakened the internal structure of the asteroid, making it susceptible to being spun apart, an effect called YORP torque.
Format(s) available: Printer-friendly web page
Grades: 8-12, but the material can be adapted for use in other grades at the teacher's discretion
How to use it in the classroom

Teachers can use Tales of … An asteroid mysteriously disintegrating as Hubble watches as:

A content reading selection. Teachers should discuss the meaning of unfamiliar vocabulary prior to having students read this selection.

An engagement activity. Have students read the selection. Ask them to discuss how this discovery helps to dispel the common view that scientists know everything there is to know about our solar system. The related materials below include additional examples.

An inquiry tool. Propose a question, such as "Why is the breakup of the asteroid such an important observation?" Have students read the selection and write down as many questions as they can about the information in the text.

A source of information. Have students read the article to learn about the unusual mechanism for the destruction of this asteroid.

Related materials

HubbleSite press release: "Hubble Witnesses an Asteroid Mysteriously Disintegrating"

Star Witness news: "Asteroid with Six Comet-like Tails Surprises Astronomers"

Star Witness news: "Pluto's Growing Family"

Star Witness news: "Dawn Spacecraft Will Go Asteroid-Hopping"

Star Witness news: "Lunar Double Whammy: Two Spacecraft Crash into Moon in Hunt for Water"

HubbleSite NewsCenter Solar System archives

See the Solar system page in the "Teaching tools" section of Amazing Space.

Comets > Overview: Tales of… Disintegrating asteroid