This series of Hubble Space Telescope images, released by Nasa, reveal the break-up of an asteroid over a period of several months in late 2013. The largest fragments are up to 200 metres in radius. The 10 pieces of the asteroid drifted apart slowly and showed a range of break-up times, suggesting that the disintegration cannot be explained by a collision with another asteroid.
One theory behind the break-up is that the asteroid was accelerated by sunlight to spin at a fast enough rate to fly apart by centrifugal force. It is the first time astronomers have witnessed the break-up of an asteroid into as many as 10 smaller pieces. The rocky asteroid, named P/2013 R3, was one of the innumerable objects populating the crowded asteroid belt located between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. Photo: AFP