Sunday, February 21, 2010

X Pattern Perplexes Astronomers

Signs in the Heavens? X-pattern perplexes Astronomers

Some people are seeing a flying cross, or perhaps a Star of David.

Others say it resembles a ninja-style throwing blade or even a science-fiction spaceship from such Hollywood creations as "Star Wars," "Star Trek," "Babylon 5" or "The Last Starfighter."

The Hubble Space Telescope has observed a mysterious, X-shaped debris pattern and trailing streamers of dust that may have been the result of a head-on collision between two asteroids.

While scientists don't think it's a comet, they're not exactly sure of the precise origin of the incredible object soaring some 90 million miles from Earth, snapped just a few weeks ago by the Hubble Space Telescope.

"I've seen thousands of astronomical images over my career, but this is one of the few absolute jaw-droppers: A flying X-pattern with trailing streamers," said Ray Villard, a contributing writer to Discovery News. "Whatever it is, nothing quite like it has ever before been seen in the heavens."

Even the experts who study celestial phenomena seem somewhat perplexed.

"We're still trying to really figure out what it is," University of Arizona planetary scientist Jim Scotti told National Geographic. Scotti is on a team observing the object from the Kitt Peak National Observatory outside Tucson.

Some think the mysterious space object has a shape similar to that of a gunship depicted in the 1984 movie, "The Last Starfighter."

"The truth is, we're still struggling to understand what this means," comet expert David Jewitt at UCLA told Britain's Daily Mail. "It's most likely the result of a recent collision between two asteroids."

If it is indeed the result of such a collision, it would be the first time astronomers have gazed upon the immediate result of such a crash.

The official statement from America's space agency indicates:

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has observed a mysterious X-shaped debris pattern and trailing streamers of dust that suggest a head-on collision between two asteroids. Astronomers have long thought the asteroid belt is being ground down through collisions, but such a smashup has never been seen before.
Asteroid collisions are energetic, with an average impact speed of more than 11,000 miles per hour, or five times faster than a rifle bullet.

"If this interpretation is correct, two small and previously unknown asteroids recently collided, creating a shower of debris that is being swept back into a tail from the collision site by the pressure of sunlight," Jewitt said.

The discovery of the object, officially known as "P/2010 A2," is sparking some chatter concerning a possible biblical message regarding end-time scenarios, as well as other theories.

In the New Testament, Jesus Christ predicted celestial signs concerning the end of this current age and His return to Earth to govern the kingdom of God.

"And the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory." (Mark 13:25-26)

"And great earthquakes shall be in divers places, and famines, and pestilences; and fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven." (Luke 21:11)

"With 2012 doomsday hysteria building, this might get attention on the Internet as yet another omen of the 'End of Times,'" notes Villard. "Those who've overdosed on Nostradamus might see a flying Star of David, or a pentagram."


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