back to article 'Weird' OBJECT, PROPELLED by its OWN JETS, spotted beyond Mars orbit by Hubble

A bizarre spinning object, described by NASA as "weird and freakish" and shooting jets of matter that cause it to move, has been spotted in our Solar System. 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 …


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  1. Don Jefe

    YORP? Really? Naming something that terribly could only be the result of a women's health product focus group, or alien conspirators who have infiltrated the astronomy field in an attempt to cover up the imminent arrival of more landing craft if, as in this case, they were accidentally spotted. Even the lamest Human astrophysicist could come up with something better than "it's like, spinning man, really fast and parts are flying off". The fact this kind of stuff is printed in the media is just proof that they're in on it too.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Isn't "Yorp" said by the big chap in Hot Fuzz?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        I think you'll find it's 'Yarp'...

      2. Lapun Mankimasta

        Isn't YORP the name of the Cottnent? At least that's what "Fraffly Well Spoken" leads me to believe.

    2. Tim Parker

      YORP is a bit rubbish isn't it ? They had enough for PYRO, though even PORY might have been preferable...

      1. Blubster


        YORP is a bit rubbish isn't it ? They had enough for PYRO, though even PORY might have been preferable...

        Ropy is better still, just like the speculations on what this phenomena is.

  2. Mark 85
    Black Helicopters

    Asteroid, really? Or something wicked that this way comes? I'm waiting for the conspiracy types and the tinfoil hat types to leap all over this.

    Pass the popcorn, please, as it will be entertaining to watch the commentaries in the popular press and possibly here.

    1. Aqua Marina


      A few years or so late!

  3. Neoc


    "The prevailing theory now is that the asteroid is being spun around so quickly that it is breaking apart under the strain of its own rotation. "

    Wouldn't this create a spiral effect like the arms of our galaxy, rather than the straight-line ejecta the photos show?

    1. Wzrd1 Silver badge

      Re: Erm...


      I'm more thinking it got spun by an impact that fractured the asteroid, permitting sunlight to warm volatiles beneath the surface that normally would not have been heated.

      I'd go take pictures and gather samples, but some Doctor stole my transportation...

    2. MrMur

      Re: Erm...

      Surely, the outpouring is also travelling in the direction of the spin at the point it left the influence of the object itself? So a spiral effect could be reduced to a point of being not visible to the naked eye?

      Just guessing. Might be bollocks.

    3. FrozenFlame

      Re: Erm...

      I read it as the sun would make the object rotate fast and faster until it started to break apart under it's own centrifugal force, at which point, the gas would be released from the asteroid in the form of jets thus causing the propulsion seen. It would then not be spinning as it was originally due to the sudden propulsion in one direction.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's simple really...

    ..the outgassing is most likely coming out at an angle, thus imparting spin. Basic ballistics. Don't need a rocket scientist for that one.

    1. Wzrd1 Silver badge

      Re: It's simple really...

      "Don't need a rocket scientist for that one."

      Dunno about that one, a rocket scientist would be able to calculate the impetus created by any such jets. :)

  5. Anonymous Coward

    That's no asteroid.....

    It's a giant disco ball!

  6. JamesTQuirk

    Monster mash

    I think its a conglomerate ball of rock/ice, mostly rocky surface, but gaps for some ice fields, these when rotating into sun light, these outgas, as it spins, it looks like a sprinkler ......

    OR it is a alien mining ship, using a process we dont understand, strip mining our asteroid field, to build a robot army to kick our butts !!!! Get your tinfoil hats on now, before it's too late !!!

    1. Robert E A Harvey

      Re: Monster mash

      That's a million-to-one, surely?

      1. Splodger

        Re: Monster mash

        The chances of anything coming from (the vicinity of) Mars are a million to one....

        ...But still, They come!


      2. JamesTQuirk

        Re: Monster mash

        @ Robert E A Harvey

        "That's a million-to-one, surely?"

        Not sure what U mean, but, odds of 999 billion to 1 can happen in a universe this crazy, just not too often ....

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Monster mash

          It's from Jeff Wayne's War of The Worlds.

          1. JamesTQuirk

            Re: Monster mash

            Arhhh, yes, I am in the boat now ... I have a Double LP of it here, didn't even click .. hehe

  7. aqk
    IT Angle

    Maybe it's an MS spin?

    What no anti-Win8 diatribe yet?

    Where is everyone?

    Surely this rocky object is just blowing off gases (sort of like tossing chairs) into empty space, and is thus rotating its way slowly back to Windows-7 (or perhaps XP) where the large majority of antediluvian Register readers reside...

    1. JamesTQuirk

      Re: Maybe it's an MS spin?

      It's obviously not running windows, it hasn't stopped for a update ...

      1. Wzrd1 Silver badge

        Re: Maybe it's an MS spin?

        However, if it spins on without any change for an extremely long amount of time, it's obviously be *BSD.

        If it spins with massive changes over rather short periods, it's obviously Linux.

        If it spins, then switches about a few times, with massive deleterious changes, it's obviously Macintosh.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Maybe it's an MS spin?

      Never using Windows 8. Android for me.

      Even thinking of going back to Unix as a result of Metro

    3. Gray

      Re: Maybe it's an MS spin?

      Tossing things off while madly spinning? Obviously it's a "Ballmer Ball!"

  8. Old Handle

    107K (-103.15°C) is too hot for ice? Uh, oh. I better readjust me refrigerator.

    1. Don Jefe

      It's space ice.

    2. AlanS

      Hot ice

      It's in a vacuum, weightless, and it sublimes quickly.

      1. NoiTall

        Re: Hot ice

        HR, don't you love that: a weightless massive object.

      2. Nick Ryan Silver badge

        Re: Hot ice

        Technically it will have some weight, or at the least some component parts will have some weight due to the gravity of the overall object itself.

    3. JamesTQuirk

      Different flavour of iceblock

      Maybe it is not water ice ? Something else with some volatility ....

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    First example?

    "Since the pressure from the Sun is constant, and space is virtually frictionless, then asteroids can spin faster and faster until they disintegrate."

    Given that the number of asteroids is in the millions, that they have been around for millions of years, and that the effect is something that should have been going on for quite a while for, probably, a considerable portion of those asteroids, is the fact that this is the first observation of the effect an indication of lack of attention up to this point?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: First example?

      No idea if it's a fault of the article... but some unequal force is needed for spin. So something would need to be set up just right for this one rock to spin from solar forces only. I'd put such a theory below "hit by another rock" and "off-gassing of ice under the surface (thus the sudden event and surface having no ice) on the plausibility scale. But then which one get's more funding/headlines/papers published? The plausible one, or the crackpot... ahem, less likely and more convoluted explanation?

      1. NoiTall

        Re: First example?

        My vote is on 'hit by another rock'. It's hard to explain that the basically constant solar radiation across the rock's surface would impart rotation. But maybe that's just the journalist's lack of understanding that lead to the omission of that essential explanation. As it comes without the article is next to useless, other than bringing an odd object into the broader public news arena.

        1. marioaieie

          Re: First example?

          Actually you explain with the assimetry of the asteroid, as it was hinted in the article...

          "This YORP effect (named after the four scientists who contributed to the theory: Yarkovsky, O'Keefe, Radzievskii, and Paddack) has been suggested as a reason for the relative paucity of small, asymmetrical objects within our Solar System in comparison to rounder rocks, and the search is now on for more observations of the theory in action."

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: First example?

            Again, that's the theory, as yet without observation. Do uneven shapes rotate when solar radiation is applied? Or show that the sun "burns off the edges and makes them round" as the above quote seems to suggest.

            Many other factors can play to why the rocks are round (structure, strength, gravity, impact) etc.

            I'll not quote the astronomer, physicist and mathematician on a train gag. ;)

            But I'm not suggesting it's wrong, just it's still very low in the plausibility until more observations are made. :)

            1. Tom_

              Re: First example?

              The force coming from the sun hits the sunward facing side of the asteroid fairly evenly. So if the asteroid is asymettrical, there will be a greater force to one side of its centre of mass than the other. This will cause it to spin.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: First example?

          It's also hard to explain how wind turns a pin wheel, but I spent some hours of my youth blowing at one. I still can't figure it out.

      2. Lapun Mankimasta

        Oh for pity's sakes Re: First example?

        Everything in space spins to some degree. Angular momentum is universal. It's more a question of how much this asteroid's angular momentum differs from other asteroids'. And it's likely that the outgassing is the result of a thin layer of insulating rock being eroded off by flares and the like, than an impact.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Oh for pity's sakes First example?

          Lapun Mankimasta, the question is, how does the sun impart rotational momentum. I do not question that it exists for objects orbiting the sun. The question is, how is an energy gradient setup so that the rock gains momentum in it's rotation?

          As for the wind/pin wheel. Yep, that's down to the shape. So, have they observed the shape of this rock to confirm it? It's the difference between claiming "rocks spin because of solar wind" and "rocks spin because of collisions with other rocks".

          As said, it's no doubt a correct theory, but it needs observation to support it first.

  10. Captain DaFt

    I was wondering when the probe from Haumea would reach the inner planets.

    1. JamesTQuirk

      @ Captain DaFt

      Yeah I saw that, but did/if you look on in further at Haumea's orbit, it may be a gravitational slingshot away from coming to inner solar system, this inter galactic pool is trickier than appears, it seems they might not need the probe, I seen "when worlds collide", so it must be true ...

  11. BestofAndy

    Spinning so much that the innards of the asteroid are coming out of the core through the several crater holes that it has, and giving a garden sprinkler like effect. The real question is: how can a massive crater get so much angular momentum that is spins wildly enough to have its innards spewing out? This does not make much sense. Perhaps its a aliens version of a Mexican fireworks, or pin wheel?

  12. taxman

    Update required

    It's so where are the later pics then? Sept 23rd was 6 weeks ago.

    Or perhaps they don't want us to know

  13. VinceH

    "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."

    Not an alien space ship that's accidentally been struck as it passes through the belt and is now out of control, then?

    1. Primus Secundus Tertius

      Surely an intelligent alien ship would come in at an angle to the ecliptic plane to avoid the disk of crap?

  14. Eastander

    The Asteroid is Electrically Charged and Passing Through the Sun's Electric Field

    The asteroid is approaching the sun and thus moving further into the sun's electric field (which accelerates the solar wind away from the sun). The asteroid has an electric charge and thus behaves like a comet - check this out : The Electric Comet at

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: The Asteroid is Electrically Charged and Passing Through the Sun's Electric Field


      Care to explain how the asteroid can keep its charge for any amount of time at all? Being immersed in solar wind which is rich in charged particles of all sort would then equalize its charge to pretty much exactly zero faster than the European Central Bank deciding on another half-percentage cut of the interbank interest rate.

      1. pepper

        Re: The Asteroid is Electrically Charged and Passing Through the Sun's Electric Field

        Ssssshh! They dont want any logic to be applied to their hypothese!

  15. Wize

    Could it be...

    ...misfiring engines of an old alien ship left parked in the asteroid belt for too long.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Could it be...

      This is a solar system that contains Local Councils and Private Parking companies. if it were an alien spaceship, it'd have been ticketed and towed by now.

  16. andy 45

    It's Nibiru

    Otherwise known as Planet X.

    They're coming back for us...

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I know what it is

    That's where Ballmer has hid all the Surface tablets

  18. SirDigalot

    In space...

    No one can hear you YORP!

  19. ElReg!comments!Pierre

    It's a glider!

  20. Curly4

    170 degrees K to hot for ice

    "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.

    To hot for ice? I must admit that it has been a very long time since I studied this but at a -103.15 degree C does not seem to hot to me.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. NoiTall

      Re: 170 degrees K to hot for ice

      Blame that semi-explanation, i.e. NO explanation, on the journalist who merely repeated the line without wondering what it meant. But, this might help: Space is mostly a very large volume that nearly everywhere has a truly dazzling vacuum, much emptier than anything we can create on Earth. That next-to-nothing pressure implies that (water-) ice would be sublimating (solid turning into vapor) at a very low temperature. However, the ice is likely maintained well above the equilibrium temperature for the local "vapor pressure" by the substrate \ rock it is attached to, which receives thermal radiation, may be radioactive itself, etc.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's a potheadfourcandle heater gone wild...

  22. RealBigAl


    It's aliens coming over here, stealing our rocks.

  23. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip Silver badge

    Noooo! It's a Vorticon invasion!

    Fools - Yorp is not a group of people, it's a small green single eyed Martian alien! Mostly harmless, but there are aggressive examples. Beware of other species such as the technically advanced and warmongering Vorticons!

    Ring the US and get Billy Blaze on the line, we need Commander Keen to save us all!

    (I think the Yorps disappeared after the first couple of releases of Commander Keen - perhaps they're stranded on that asteroid)

  24. daviddmpb

    Son of Comet

    Perhaps a piece of a "comet" that orbits the sun near the asteroid belt. It's "weird" nature sounds like what I know about comets. Ice in space ... comets. Dark surface ... comets. Outgassing ... comets. Rotation ... every space object rotates and continues to rotate for a very long time since there is little "friction." Its brother asteroids are rotating.

  25. Dropper


    I see Superman is on his way home.. again..

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: Yawn..

      Come on. It's just a weather balloon.

  26. Stevie


    So four "scientists" were sitting in a coffee bar one day and talking about one of their kids setting up a weather station with an anemometer, and the resulting insight required a huge confusing paper to explain?

    Bad scientists! No Nobel Prize for you!

  27. Stevie


    And so another Cavorite sphere returns from the cold, black hell of space whence it was cast by a catastrophic collision while transiting the Asteroid Belt during the British Expedition to Uranus in the year 189_.

  28. Barracoder

    6 jets?

    Thats exactly the number a spaceship would need for attitude control. Has anyone seen Elon Musk lately?

  29. TRussert

    Alien Warning Beacon

    This is nothing more than an Alien Warning Beacon to let other aliens know to stay the hell away from this fooked up planet.

  30. Snowball Solar System

    Gravitational Instability

    Planetesimal Formation by Gravitational Instability:

    The growing understanding of planetesimal formation is that it occurs by gravitational instability, explaining their spherical contours; however, excess angular momentum often causes them to fragment as they gravitationally collapse, forming gravitationally-bound binary comets, asteroids and trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs). And perturbed binaries may frequently spiral in to merge and form peanut-shaped 'contact binaries'.

    An alternative hypothesis suggests that gravitationally-collapsing stars may form bar-mode instabilities which become isolated pairs of giant planets when the protostar collapses to form a core, abandoning its two 'bar-mode' arms. If the arms are gravitationally bound within their own Roche spheres, they may go on to gravitationally collapse to form proto-planets.

    And giant proto-planets may go on to fragment (bifurcate) due to excess angular momentum, forming binary planets. Then the energy and angular momentum of their binary orbits cause them to spiral out from their progenitor stars until their binary components spiral in and merge, forming solitary planets.

    Moons may similarly spin off from gravitationally-collapsing proto-planets during their own bar-mode instability phase, forming moons that bifurcate and spiral out from their progenitor planets. Saturn's moon Iapetus may be a contact binary without sufficient gravity to form a completely spherical surface, hence its contact-binary walnut-shape and the raised ridge around its equator.

  31. Tom 13

    Since it's a B&W image I can't tell...

    Does anyone know if those flares are green?

    Although I would have thought it should be coming from a different direction.

    1. JamesTQuirk

      Re: Since it's a B&W image I can't tell...

      @ Tom 13

      Maybe it's VOGA, from Dr Who, a wandering asteriod of gold, owned by Vogans, in just sparkles in sunlight, cybermen won't be fair behind, they were in B/W as well ....

  32. ben kendim


    Let's nuke it.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: Rama

      But we don't have half-crazed Mercurians yet?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Rama

        We do have fully-crazed Merkins though

        1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

          Re: Rama

          Okay then, let's do this!


  33. Werner McGoole

    It's obviously...

    ...our first glimpse of dark matter.

  34. sisk

    You know, in sci fi when they have an object changing it's own trajectory they usually come to a rather different and more interesting conclusion that "It's spinning so fast that part of it are blowing off".

    More proof: the real world is boring.

  35. MofR


    I, for one, would like to welcome our new disco ball overlords.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re. aliens

    Its the N'atal refugee ship :-)

    Bloomin' aliens, coming here and stealing our dead...

  37. carl_

    the rotation theory does not seem to fit what's show in the image. besides, why would the fact that it is rotating cause it to heat up over a hundred degrees more than its surroundings?

    it's far more likely to be the result of residual heat from a collision. there could have been radioactive material in the asteroid that ignited in the collision.

  38. mraak

    I bet it's something Google

    Google Interstellar Time Traveller, or simply GITT?

  39. Justin Sayin

    Here they come !!!

    Maybe it's a drone from a far off Alien race sent out to probe space and report, cleverly disguised as an asteroid. Nah ! ?

  40. WereWoof

    It is Steve Zodiac in Fireball XL5!

  41. Brandon 2

    looks like a comet to me... must be ALIENS.

  42. Fr. Ted Crilly Silver badge

    Here's Rama !

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