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Color-changing asteroid detected by astronomers, a first in history

UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON (OBSERVATORY) — After astonishing astronomers with its ability to leave behind a double trail of dust like a comet, asteroid 6478 Gault has booked a new surprise. It turned out that he was able to change color, a first in the history of astronomy.

Astronomers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have determined that asteroid 6478 Gault periodically changes color, according to Science Alert.

Never before has such a phenomenon been seen, even when asteroids were observed in real time. As for the 6478 Gault , a reddish color gives way to a blue hue, as immortalized the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility.

“It’s a huge surprise,” said astronomer Michael Marsset. “We think we saw the asteroid lose its reddish dust in space, and we see its cool blue underlying layers.”

This is due to the YORP effect , which is how sunlight can be unevenly absorbed by an asteroid, rotating it for millions of years. This rapid rotation could, however, result in the destruction of 6478 Gault. Before this happens, however, specialists would like to be able to confirm their assumptions about the YORP effect.

Discovered in 1988, the 6478 Gault had already aroused the curiosity of astronomers, a double trail of dust behind him, “a bit like a comet,” according to Mr. Marsset.

Its diameter is about 3.7 km and it lies between Mars and Jupiter, at a distance of 345.6 million km from the Sun.

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