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Learn more about unusual six-tailed asteroid in online chat

By Scott Dance, The Baltimore Sun

10:25 AM EST, November 13, 2013

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Scientists have plenty of questions about a bizarre asteroid spotted spouting what looks like six comet-like tails, but they are nevertheless giving the public an opportunity to make their own queries about it.

Researchers are holding a Google Hangout on Thursday to talk about the discovery, including how and when the asteroid was discovered, what its six tails are made of, and how common such asteroids are in space.

The Baltimore-based Space Telescope Science Institute and NASA released images of the asteroid last Thursday. It was found by astronomers observing the solar system's asteroid belt using the Hubble Space Telescope.

"We were literally dumbfounded when we saw it," lead investigator David Jewitt of the University of California at Los Angeles, who will be participating in Thursday's online chat, said in a statement. "Even more amazing, its tail structures change dramatically in just 13 days as it belches out dust. That also caught us by surprise. It's hard to believe we're looking at an asteroid."

The Google Hangout will be held at 4 p.m. Thursday. RSVP for the event and tune in here.

Astronomers are meanwhile continuing to track another heavenly body getting a lot of attention, Comet ISON. The comet is on track to pass closely by the sun later this month, but it remains unclear just how easy (or difficult) it will be to see it from Earth.