Asteroid Gault is dying. It's rotates so fast that it is disintegrating. The NASA and ESA funded Hubble space telescope pointed it's camera at the rubble pile designated as 6478 Gault by the Minor Planet Center. Two comet-like tails of dust stream from the asteroid.
Asteroid Gault is part of the inner asteroid belt, located twice earth distance from the sun. Its orbit is steeply inclined compared to Earth's orbit, as a result of collisions with other space objects. Explore Gault's orbit in the simulation below. It loops around the sun about every 3.5 years. 6478 Gault is made of a stony material and nickel-iron. It measures about four kilometers (2 miles) wide.
Where is Asteroid Gault now?
Currently Gault is 247,045,941 (165,045,941) from earth, racing through the solar system at 79,847 (49,904). It is getting 27.5 (17.2) closer to earth every second. The asteroid is breaking up due to its fast rotation, which long has been theorized to occur when asteroids rotate faster than once every two hours. A scientist of the University of Hawaii called it 'the best smoking gun' for a breaking up fast rotator.
Will it hit or miss Earth?
Asteroid Gault's orbit is between 150 and 250 million kilometers (80-160 million miles) away from Earth, so there is no collision risk.
Photo Credit and other: NASA, ESO/S. Brunier