The rotation period of the “potentially dangerous” asteroid Phaethon is decreasing by 4 milliseconds per year. It is the 11th known asteroid to show a change in its spin period.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency plans to launch its DESTINY+ mission to fly by the near-Earth asteroid Phaethon in 2024. The spacecraft aims to fly by the space rock in 2028. However, scientists have detected a shocking fact about the ” potentially dangerous” accelerated spin of the asteroid. According to the recent study led by a team of researchers, the asteroid’s rotation period is decreasing by 4 milliseconds per year. Although this is a very small change, it could affect DESTINY+ observations.
Findings presented at the 54th annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Sciences in London, Ontario, earlier this month, say information about the rate of rotation will allow them to predict the orientation of the asteroid during the flyby. the spacecraft more accurately.
As reported by Space.com, it’s rare for an asteroid’s spin to change; Phaethon is the 11th and largest known asteroid to change its rotation period with an average diameter of 3.4 miles (5.4 kilometers).
Sean Marshall, a planetary scientist at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, created a model to determine Phaethon’s shape using data and observations from 1989. This will help scientists prepare for the DESTINY+ mission.
Marshall said: “The shape model predictions did not match the data.” He added: “The times when the model was brightest were clearly out of sync with the times when Phaethon was observed to be brightest. I realized this might be explained by Phaethon’s rotational period changing slightly sometime before the 2021 observations, perhaps due to comet-like activity when it was near perihelion, the point of its orbit. closest to the sun]in December 2020.”
Although researchers are still learning about Phaethon, the DESTINY+ mission will provide more information about it. Furthermore, Phaethon is large enough and close enough to Earth to be categorized as a potentially dangerous asteroid, but it does not pose an immediate threat to our planet.