Researchers were scanning the skies for asteroids that could pose a threat to the planet when they noticed what they believed to be a comet hurtling through space. Astronomer Jim Scotti, who is part of the Spacewatch project that identified near-Earth asteroids (NEAs), grabbed his telescope to take a closer look. Noting it was unlike anything seen before, he reported the phenomenon to NASA, but when they investigated, images showed a bizarre X structure more than 1,500 miles wide.
The discovery was revealed during Amazon Prime’s ’NASA’s Unexplained Files,’ where narrator Erik Dellums unravelled the mystery.
He said: “A stunning observation marking a point in space shocks astronomers looking for rogue asteroids.
“Kitt Peak Observatory astronomer Jim Scotti hears reports of an unusual looking comet streaking through space and decides to take a look.
“The object is unlike any comet he’s ever seen”
Dr Scotti detailed what he saw during his observation.
He said: “I set up my 1.8-metre telescope and decided to take some images and spotted something weird.
“It’s got a long narrow tail and some funny business going on around the head.
“It’s really hard to tell what’s going on, but something interesting is there.”
But the mystery deepened when NASA took a look.
Dr Jayadev Rajagopal, a Research Associate at NSFs National Optical-Infrared Astronomy Research Lab, revealed the reaction from the space agency workers when the discovery was made in 2010.
He said: “We all stepped back from the screen – in every image, it’s there.
“It’s in the shape of an X – an X in the sky.”
Mr Dellums went on to reveal the leading theory on what the structure could be.
He added: “The X-shape is not commonly found in astronomy, and the object is travelling at 11,000mph.
“Astronomer JJ Kavelaars is puzzled over the evidence, he concludes it is the result of a freak event.
“Perhaps it is the result of a collision between two asteroids.”
Dr JJ Kavelaars explained why he believes this is the most feasible theory.
He said in 2015: “When you do the simulation, two asteroids impacting would result in such a structure being formed.
“But there’s more that we don’t know than we do know, that’s just the nature of the universe.”