US Astronomers Discover “Fastest Orbiting Asteroid” In Solar System, Science News

Astronomers at the Carnegie Institution for Science (CIS) have announced the discovery of the fastest orbiting asteroid ever spotted in the solar system.

Nicknamed “2021 PH27”, the space rock, which measures 1 kilometer in diameter, completes its orbit in just 113 Earth days.

It is the shortest orbital period of all known objects in the solar system except for the planet Mercury, which takes just 88 days to orbit the sun, the scientists noted.

“Although telescope time for astronomers is very precious, the international nature and love of the unknown make astronomers very willing to bypass their own science and observations to follow exciting new discoveries like this,” said Scott Sheppard, research director, astronomer at CIS. , said in a statement.

The work was reported to the Minor Planet Center, an official body for observing and reporting on minor planets under the auspices of the International Astronomical Union.

Space rock also gets extremely close to the sun, according to scientists, reaching a proximity of around 20 million kilometers. In comparison, Mercury is approaching 46 million kilometers (approximately).

Such proximity means that the asteroid’s surface sometimes burns up to 500 degrees Celsius.

However, scientists have warned that the orbit is not stable. They said the asteroid would likely collide with the Sun, Mercury or Venus in a few million years, if it is not first altered from its current path by gravitational interaction.

2021 PH27 was first detected on August 13 by astronomers using the Dark Energy Camera (DEC), a powerful multi-purpose instrument that uses images taken in the near ultraviolet, visible and near infrared to measure expansion of the universe.

It is mounted on the Víctor M. Blanco 4-meter telescope at the Inter-American Observatory at Cerro Tololo in Chile.

The team was able to determine the asteroid’s orbit over the next few days thanks to observations from the DEC and Magellan telescopes at the Las Campanas observatory in Chile.


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Arline J. Mercier

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