By Alex Fitzpatrick
March 6, 2014
NASA/ESA/D. Jewitt/UCLA; Gif by Mia Tramz/TIME


NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope is more than two decades old, but it still rarely ceases to amaze. A new series of images released Thursday reveals an asteroid crumbling into approximately 10 smaller pieces, a space scene never before captured in such dramatic detail. The asteroid isn’t likely breaking up because of an impact, NASA says, but rather because of a “subtle effect of sunlight” on the rock’s rotation.

“This is a rock. Seeing it fall apart before our eyes is pretty amazing,” said David Jewitt, head of the investigation into the breakup of asteroid P/2013 R3, in a NASA statement.

Amazing indeed: Watch TIME’s GIF, above, which shows the asteroid’s month-long disintegration compressed into just a few seconds.

Write to Alex Fitzpatrick at

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