The mysterious rock, located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, was seen spewing matter from its surface by the Hubble space telescope on September 10. Then in a second image taken on September 23 the asteroid, dubbed P/2013 P5, appeared to have swung around significantly.
"One idea was that we were seeing ice on the asteroid outgassing, but the object is too hot, around 170 Kelvin, for ice," he explained. "An impact with the asteroid was discussed but that would leave one large plume, not six."
The current idea is that the asteroid is being spun around so quickly that it is breaking apart under the strain of its own rotation. The spin is probably the result of hundreds of thousands of years of slight pressure from solar emissions.