December 9, 2022
a blue asteroid is spinning faster and faster near the sun;  see the mystery

a blue asteroid is spinning faster and faster near the sun; see the mystery

a Phaethon He showed very unusual behavior for asteroid: It rotates on its axis faster and faster as it revolves around the sun. Discovering why space rock patterns break could help protect Earth, and scientists are putting forward new hypotheses about what might happen.

Astronomers have observed 3,200 Phaethon since its discovery in 1983. There has long been a “difference” between asteroids. First, because it tends to bluish in color – while its “brothers” are usually gray or reddish.

Moreover, its orbit is very close to the Sun – usually comets, not asteroids – only 21 million kilometers (about a third of the distance from Earth). Mercury to the sun). Indeed, for this reason he received this name: in Greek mythology, Phaethon (or Phaethon) is the son of Helios, the sun god.

Researchers presented new data during the 54th annual meeting of the Division of Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society (AAS), which happened this month.

danger to the earth?

Its path passes very close to here – astronomically speaking – but Phaethon would not be able to cause the end of the world on Earth.

But he presents us, every year, with a beautiful ‘meteor’: a meteor shower twinsin December, because of the dusty tail of Touring car. And theThis is the only known rain that is caused by particles from an asteroid and not a comet.

However, it is not that small. With a diameter of more than 5 kilometers, it can do a lot of damage if it falls on a wild city. But there are no accounts indicating this possibility.

In any case, understanding why this asteroid changed its behavior may be the key to preventing unexpected disasters.

accelerated rotation

Phaethon is the target of the upcoming DESTINY+ mission of the Japan Space Agency (Jaxa), which it intends to land on. Therefore, scientists study the asteroid in depth. In the process, Sean Marshall of the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico noticed that his model’s predictions didn’t match up with previous data.

He concluded that Phaethon’s rotation period changed between 1989 and 2021. This could be caused by a gradual and steady acceleration, which reduced the rotation period by 4 milliseconds per year, which became apparent decades later.

In 2016, a rotation of the data was already observed, but there was not enough information to understand what was happening. A puzzle, since the rotation of an asteroid on its axis usually does not change.

Possible causes

In the latest analysis, astronomers indicated that the asteroid may change its behavior due to the loss of its mass, since it is known that Phaethon can release sodium. This reduction is not common in asteroids, but in comets – the process of degassing in them produces an accelerating effect.

Another reason could be heat: very high temperatures near a star (like our Sun) can alter the asteroid’s rotation rate. Understanding the patterns in this data is also critical to the success of the DESTINY+ mission, as astronomers need to accurately predict the timing of flight and landing on the space rock.

*With information from NASA and Science Alert