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Hubble Telescope Captures Shattering Asteroid

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Hubble image of the disintegrating asteroid P/2013 R3 from October 2013. (Photo credit: NASA, ESA, and D. Jewitt (UCLA))

Hubble image of the disintegrating asteroid P/2013 R3 from October 2013. (Photo credit: NASA, ESA, and D. Jewitt (UCLA))

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CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — The Hubble Space Telescope has captured the first pictures of a disintegrating asteroid.

Asteroid P/2013 R3 was detected in September in the asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. It appeared as a fuzzy object. Further observations by ground telescopes revealed three bodies. Hubble uncovered 10 objects, each with dusty tails. The four largest fragments are up to 656 feet across.

Scientists say the asteroid began coming apart early last year. They theorize sunlight is slowing pulling the asteroid apart by increasing its rotation.

A planetary scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles, David Jewitt, led the investigation. He says seeing the rock “fall apart before our eyes is pretty amazing.”

(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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