'Potentially dangerous' asteroid nearing Earth is increasing in speed

The giant asteroid, considered 'potentially dangerous', is being closely scrutinised by astronomers as it passes close to the Earth.

'Potentially dangerous' asteroid is near earth
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'Potentially dangerous' asteroid is near earth

Another replay of Armageddon? The earth isn't the only celestial body in space, although a large planet it is still surrounded by many celestial elements that might potentially bring harm to it. One such space element is the asteroid Phaethon which, according to scientists, might become a threat to our planet in future.

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The strange 'behaviour' of Phaethon

A giant 6 km long asteroid is attracting scientists' attention. The cause? It seems that its speed of rotation is increasing dramatically. Phaethon, as it is known, is a potentially dangerous near-Earth asteroid. It is the origin of the Geminids, the famous meteor shower.

Its orbit, which brings it periodically close to the sun, earned it the name of Phaethon, son of the sun god Helios in Greek mythology. It is considered 'potentially dangerous' by astronomers. Because it also passes close to the Earth, it is in the eye of the Destiny+ probe, which should reach it by 2028. But lately, the rotation speed of the unusual cosmic stone has been accelerating strangely.

An abnormal speed

According to planetary scientist Sean Marshall:

The model's predictions do not match the data. The times when the model was brightest were clearly out of sync with the times when Phaethon was actually observed to be brightest. It is due to the fact that Phaethon's rotation period changed slightly at some point.

The likely explanation would be related to cometary activity at the time when it was closest to the sun. Radiation effects from the sun could also be delaying its course. This is not the first time that Phaethon has behaved strangely. Indeed, the asteroid has rather strange characteristics, as its orbit (curve of displacement in space) resembles that of a comet rather than an asteroid, hence its nickname of 'rocky comet'.

In any case, thanks to the various observations produced on its deviation from the analysed data, we now know that Phaethon increases its rotation speed by four milliseconds per year.

This article was translated from Gentside FR.

Sources used:

-Futura-Sciences: L’astéroïde potentiellement dangereux Phaédon a un comportement qui intrigue les astronomes

-SciencePost: l’astéroïde "potentiellement dangereux" Phaethon se comporte étrangement


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