Astronomers have captured the first ever images of an asteroid breaking apart.
The experts used Nasa’s Hubble Space Telescope to snap it disintegrating into 10 pieces.
Professor David Jewitt, of the University of California, who has been monitoring the asteroid, said: “Seeing this rock fall apart before our eyes is pretty amazing.”
The pictures show the asteroid splitting up into rocky fragments up to 200 yards across between October last year and the middle of January this year. The pieces were travelling at about one mile per hour.
While most of the debris will plunge into the sun, a few could one day enter the Earth’s atmosphere as meteors, the experts said.
The astronomers – whose findings were published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters – said the asteroid began coming apart early last year but the new images show that pieces are still breaking away from it.
They said it was unlikely that the asteroid is breaking up because of a collision with another object because that would have caused an “instantaneous and violent” break-up.
They said that the break up is also unlikely to have been caused by ice inside the meteor warming and vaporising because it is in a very cold part of space, nearly 300 million miles from the sun.
Prof Jewitt, who led the astronomical forensics investigation into the asteroid, said it could have disintegrated because of a “subtle effect of sunlight”.
He said this can cause the rotation rate to slowly increase which causes the asteroid’s component pieces to gently pull apart due to “centrifugal force”.
Fragile comet nuclei have been seen falling apart as they near the sun but nothing resembling this type of break-up has been reliably observed before in the asteroid belt.
“To spare oneself from grief at all costs can be achieved only at the price of total detachment, which excludes the ability to experience happiness.” —Erich Fromm
(The following excerpt from What’s Good About Feeling Bad? by Jessica Grogan, Ph.D., recently appeared on psychology today.com. To view it in its entirety click on the link below.)
One way to deal with grief is to ignore it. At first, you stay incredibly busy with the details of the loss: you arrange a funeral or memorial service, you coordinate travel plans for friends and family, you deal with estates and insurance and legal procedures. When all that abates, you tell yourself that there’s simply no time to sit around feeling bad. You have to work, deal with the people in your life, and keep up with the details.
At the same time, you might notice that all the commitments that existed before the loss require extra energy and extra concentration. This increased demand means you throw yourself into all of it extra hard. When you start to feel pangs of sadness, you push right through them.
Repression is not the same as moving forward. But it’s easy to get the two mixed up. A recent Wall Street Journal article seems to conflate skipping past grief with moving forward. The “experts” quoted discuss the value of pushing yourself into new experiences, laughing, and re-engaging in the joy of life through behavioral activation (doing fun things so that you may experience the positive feelings people have when doing fun things). Some argue that sitting around feeling bad only feeds into a spiral of feeling progressively worse (Bernstein, 2014).
Quoting the grief researcher George Bonanno, the author of the Wall Street Journal article writes: “The traditional model of bereavement is that there is work to do. There has never really been any evidence for that (Bernstein, 2014).”
To me, the construction of grief as “work” is flawed. So, in that sense I agree with Bonanno. It seems more necessary to free ourselves to feel than to follow any specific process. Even Elizabeth Kubler-Ross herself realized that the five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance) that predominated the grief world from 1969 on were neither linear nor mandatory (Kellehear, 2008). But I do believe that it’s necessary to let ourselves feel negative emotion in order to get better.
Everyone seems to agree that grief is fluid. It ebbs and flows. Bonanno compares it to a swinging pendulum: the cycles of feeling better and worse can sometimes be intense.
But the idea that we can recover from grief through behavioral activation, or by actively choosing the positive and dismissing the negative, seems flawed. Doing enjoyable things may sometimes make you feel better, but it may also make you feel worse. When my friend is feeling bad at a party, he ends up feeling extra bad because observing those not grieving tends to highlight the distance between himself and others. If he goes home and lets himself cry or write, he tends to feel better.
The other danger of the behavioral activation paradigm is similar to the problem with a linear stages paradigm. There shouldn’t be rigid norms around grief. We shouldn’t expect people to buck up and do something fun any more than we should expect them to feel denial before anger. What we should expect them to do is feel what they feel and on a timeline that makes sense to them. We should be concerned if they keep tamping it down (on one extreme) or can’t function (on the other). But we should be unconcerned if they spend time feeling bad or even doing things to temporarily intensify their sadness. Grief is messy and unique, and it always feels bad. Rather than try to change its nature, we should give it the room it needs to play out.
(The following excerpt from What’s A Giraffe’s Life Worth? by Christopher Ryan recently appeared on psychology.com. To view it in its entirety click on the link below.)
On a recent episode of AC360, Anderson Cooper and his guest, Jack Hanna expressed their outrage over the recent killing of a healthy young giraffe by the directors of a Danish zoo. The case received considerable attention in world media for a few days. The piece was a textbook example of the kind of silliness that results in working from unfounded, unexamined assumptions. While Cooper and Hanna fumed, the Danish zoo director patiently explained—as if speaking to children—that the ethics of European zoos were more oriented toward the quality of the animal’s life, while it lived, than to the length of its life.
Quality over quantity. But Americans often have trouble with this way of looking at life. In the land of “Bigger is Better!”, all you can eat buffets, and runaway obesity, quality takes a back seat to quantity. Stupid slogans like “Stay Hungry!”, “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead,” and “It’s Never Enough!” abound, while anti-depressants sell like hotcakes and abuse of prescription pain killers floods this sad land.
The unexamined assumption underlying Cooper and Hanna’s idiocy was that death can be avoided. They were shocked that the animal’s body was cut up (“In front of children!”) and fed to lions. What does Hanna—who was wearing a leather hat for the interview—think lions eat? Tempeh? Kale? And why was the giraffe’s death more tragic than that of the cows that are normally fed to those lions? Because it was cuter?
Come on. Here’s the brutal truth: that giraffe’s death was more merciful and graceful than most of ours will be. Because of our childish insistance that death can be defeated, most of us will die in pain, lingering in non-death long after our lives have ended. As for me, when my time comes, I’d rather have a bolt to the brain and be fed to the lions. Enlionment, at last!