Astronomers Discover Fastest Known Asteroid In Our Solar System
Artist’s illustration of the fastest asteroid 2021 PH27, Credit: CTIO/NOIRLab/NSF/AURA/J. da Silva (Spaceengine)

The universe is slowly being traced as this time astronomers have discovered the fastest known asteroid – 2021 PH27 – in our solar system, which takes just 113 days to take a round around the sun. Other than Mercury, which circles the Sun in just 88 days, 2021 PH27 – the Usain Bolt of space rocks – holds the record for the shortest orbital period to take a lap around the sun.

In one of the closest approaches during its orbital period, 2021 PH27 reached about 12.4 million miles (or 20 million km) from the sun this distance is more than twice as close as Mercury reached. And during such time, the temperature on its surface rises to about 900 degrees Fahrenheit or about 500 degrees Celsius (which even melts lead).

2021 PH27 was discovered on August 13 by the Carnegie Institution of Science’s Scott S. Sheppard, with the help of a Dark Energy Camera atop the Víctor M, and is the fastest known asteroid in our solar system yet. To confirm its speed and orbit, Blanco 4m Telescope at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile, an international team of astronomers across two continents working together for few upcoming days.

Sheppard said that, “Though telescope time for astronomers is very precious, the international nature and love of the unknown make astronomers very willing to override their own science and observations to follow up new, interesting discoveries like this.”

Asteroids entering the solar system appear as on earth and seem to be moving behind it. Scientists are optimistic to get more accurate information of the orbit after which the asteroid will get its official name. Asteroids like 2021 PH27 helps in understanding the danger towards earth from exterior asteroids.

The major asteroid between Mars and Jupiter is the area where most of the asteroid resides. That’s the place from where the danger to earth came, as they get launched from their trajectories for any reason.

Sheppard mentioned that, “The fraction of asteroids interior to Earth and Venus compared to the exterior will give us insights into the strength and make-up of these objects.” He added, “It is important to count a population of asteroids interior to Earth’s orbit, including those which reach earth during daylight and that cannot easily be discovered in most surveys that are observing at night, away from the sun.”

Some further observations are required which will unveil some mysteries. But it will take time to collect more data. As team members said that 2021 PH27 is now moving behind the sun from our point of view, and it won’t re-emerge until early 2022.


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