This GIGANTIC asteroid is spinning FASTER, creating a big worry for astrologers

“Potentially hazardous” asteroid Phaethon’s spinning period is decreasing by 4 milliseconds per year. Here‘s why.

| Updated on: Oct 20 2022, 14:26 IST
Asteroid Phaethon’s rotational period is decreasing! Could affect Japan Space Agency’s DESTINY+ launch.  (via REUTERS)
Asteroid Phaethon’s rotational period is decreasing! Could affect Japan Space Agency’s DESTINY+ launch.  (via REUTERS)

A potentially dangerous asteroid has left scientists' worried with its rising spin rate. The near-Earth asteroid Phaethon is spinning faster and faster. A recent study led by a team of researchers has detected the asteroid's rotational period is decreasing by 4 milliseconds per year. And it could affect Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's DESTINY+ mission launch. The spacecraft aims to fly by the space rock in 2028. However, it's a very small change, it could affect the DESTINY+ observations. The findings of the study were presented at the 54th annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society's Division for Planetary Sciences in London, Ontario, earlier this month. The study of spin rate would help with the asteroid's orientation during the spacecraft's flyby more accurately. Though scientists are trying to find out the reasons for this, it's unclear. Know here's what they suggest.

Here's all you need to know about Phaethon's and its spinning period

1. 3200 Phaethon is an asteroid 5 kilometers in diameter. The asteroid is rotating faster and faster on its axis, at the rate of about 4 milliseconds per year.

2. Though rotation of asteroids never changes; but this shocking finding can change our perception of asteroids.

3. It is also possible for the small Yarkovsky-O'Keefe-Radzievskii-Paddack (YORP) effect to apply when the heat of a star affects the rotational velocity of an asteroid.

4. Phaethon is the 11th and largest known asteroid to change its rotational period with an average diameter of 3.4 miles (5.4 kilometers).

Sean Marshall, a planetary scientist at Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, created a model to study the shape of Phaethon by using data and observations from 1989.

Marshall said, "The predictions from the shape model did not match the data." He explained, “The times when the model was brightest were clearly out of sync with the times when Phaethon was actually observed to be brightest. I realized this could be explained by Phaethon's rotation period changing slightly at some time before the 2021 observations, perhaps from comet-like activity when it was near perihelion the point in its orbit nearest to the sun in December 2020."

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First Published Date: 20 Oct, 13:32 IST