BALTIMORE (WJZ) ― It's probably happened countless times over the last four billion years or so, but thanks to the Hubble Space Telescope, it's the first time it has been seen.
The Hubble Space Telescope was given orders from its operations center in Maryland to take a closer look at what was thought to be a comet. When the pictures came back, the comet went out the window.
"Well, it's the first time we've witnessed a cosmic collision in the asteroid belt. We know they've happened many, many times in the past, at the time of the formation of the solar system. But this is the first chance we've had to see it happen recently," said Dr. Hal Weaver, Hopkins Applied Physics Lab.
It may have happened as recently as late last year, with rocky debris from the crash still trailing behind the largest surviving piece of the collision.
Asteroids are the rocks that never had a chance. Jupiter's gravity prevented them from forming into a planet between it and Mars. They've been a threat to Earth ever since.
While small objects streak the sky all the time, the last big hit in Siberia was in 1908, which makes what's slamming around in the asteroid belt a wise thing to follow.
The asteroid's tail of debris is estimated to be hundreds of thousands of miles long. It is about 98 million miles from Earth, still safely tucked in the asteroid belt.