It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s an asteroid with six tails?

BY newsdesk  November 7, 2013 at 5:56 PM EDT

Image by NASA, ESA, and D. Jewitt (UCLA)

In September, the NASA Hubble Space Telescope captured a strange sight: an asteroid with six comet-like tails radiating from the flying space object.

Why is this strange? Well, normally, asteroids don’t have tails.

NASA hypothesizes that its dusty tails could exist because the asteroid’s rotation rate has accelerated by “the gentle push of sunlight” and, as a result, dust on the surface is being pushed out into space to create the tails.

It might be confusing for scientists to refer to an asteroid as “comet-like.” Are you curious about the differences between the two flying objects? Read NewsHour’s primer on shooting stars, dirty “snowballs” and space rocks on earth.