A Violent Birth
With the world abuzz this week about Earth's close encounter with a giant asteroid, NASA scientists announced on May 30 the discovery of an entire new family of these celestial rocks hiding out in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
This artist's impression depicts the violent birth of one of these new-found families. A violent smashup creates fragments that fly apart, forming loose groups that orbit the sun as new asteroid families.
NASA researchers were able to identify 28 separate groups of asteroids by scanning millions of infrared snapshots from the asteroid-hunting portion of the WISE (Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer) all-sky survey.
The next step will be for researchers to identify the parent objects that created these hundreds of newly discovered asteroids. (Related: “Asteroid Impacts: 10 Biggest Known Hits.”)