Asteroid with six comet-like tails found

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Washington, Nov 8 (IANS) The US and German astronomers said Thursday that for the first time they have found an asteroid with six comet-like tails of dust in solar system's asteroid belt, located roughly between the orbits of the Mars and Jupiter planets.

Unlike all other known asteroids, which appear simply as tiny points of light in space telescope, this asteroid, designated P/ 2013 P5, resembles a rotating lawn sprinkler, reported Xinhua citing astronomers who are puzzled over the space rock's unusual appearance.

"We were literally dumbfounded when we saw it," lead investigator David Jewitt of the University of California at Los Angeles, 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."

P/2013 P5 has been ejecting dust periodically for at least five months.

Astronomers said that it is possible that the asteroid's rotation rate increased to the point where its surface started flying apart and the tails are unlikely to be the result of an impact with another asteroid because they have not seen a large quantity of dust blasted into space all at once.