The fastest asteroid in the Solar System 2021 PH27 against the background of Mercury and the Sun: an artist's view. Credit: CTIO, NOIRLab, NSF, AURA, J. da Silva (Spaceengine)

Scientists Find Our Solar System’s Fastest Moving Object—10 Things You Need To Know

2021 PH27 manages to make a full orbit in just 113 days, moving away from the Sun further than Venus, then converging closer to Mercury.

Astronomers have discovered the fastest asteroid in the Solar System. Object 2021 PH27 has the new shortest orbital period around the Sun, which is just 113 days. It also has the fastest apse line precession, which is caused by the effect of General Relativity. 


Everything you need to know about the new fastest asteroid in the Solar System

Record-breakers

Until recently, 2019 LF6 from the Atira group was the record-breaking asteroid in terms of the shortest orbital period, with a year lasting 151 days. Last year, that title passed to asteroid 2020 AV2, which has a year of 145.6 days and is also the first known asteroid to orbit entirely within the orbit of Venus.

Asteroid 2021 PH27

On August 21, 2021, a new record holder was announced for the short duration of the revolution around the Sun among asteroids. It was originally discovered on August 13 by a group of astronomers at the Cerro Tololo Observatory led by David Tolen.

Observations

The observations were carried out at dusk – this is the optimal time to study Venus, Mercury, and asteroids closer to the Earth than the Sun.

Fastest asteroid 2021 PH27 in the DECam image: the positions of the asteroid are shown in red and blue, separated by a time of only three minutes. Credit: CTIO, NOIRLab, NSF, AURA, J. da Silva (Spaceengine)

Trajectory

Noticing 2021 PH27, scientists quickly calculated its trajectory and predicted where the asteroid would be a day later. On August 14, the observations were successfully repeated using not only DECam but also telescopes in other observatories in the world. On the 15th, astronomers collected more accurate data using ESA’s network of telescopes located in Chile and South Africa.

Only 113 Earth days

The year for 2021 PH27 lasts only 113 Earth days which makes it the fastest asteroid to date. Its orbit is characterized by a large tilt relative to the ecliptic (31.8 degrees), while the perihelion is inside the orbit of Mercury, and the aphelion does not go beyond the orbit of the Earth.

Calculations

In addition, calculations show that this body has the highest precession rate of the apse line, which is explained in the framework of General Relativity – 53.5 arc seconds per century, which is higher than that of Mercury (43 arc seconds per century).

The unusual orbit of 2021 PH27 against the background of neighboring orbits; the positions of the planets are shown at the time of the discovery of the asteroid on August 13, 2021. Credit: CTIO, NOIRLab, NSF, AURA, J. da Silva (Spaceengine)
The unusual orbit of 2021 PH27 against the background of neighboring orbits; the positions of the planets are shown at the time of the discovery of the asteroid on August 13, 2021. Credit: CTIO, NOIRLab, NSF, AURA, J. da Silva (Spaceengine)

Temperatures

According to scientists, the surface of 2021 PH27 might be reaching above 480 ° C depending on its position.

Future

In addition, calculations show that the orbit of 2021 PH27 may be unstable and in the next few million years, it will either fall on the Sun, Mercury, or Venus or be thrown back into more distant regions.

Origin

Most likely, this celestial body was formed in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter but was thrown into the innermost regions of the solar system by a random play of gravity. On the other hand, its orbit is distinguished by a large inclination (relative to the plane of the solar system) – 32 °.

Future observations

This may indicate that 2021 PH27 flew in from the outermost periphery and is a degenerate comet nucleus that has lost its volatiles and is no longer able to form a bright coma and tail. Perhaps the answer will be given by new observations.


Join the discussion and participate in awesome giveaways in our mobile Telegram group. Join Curiosmos on Telegram Today. t.me/Curiosmos


Sources:

The International Astronomical Union Minor Planet Center. (n.d.). MPEC 2021-Q41 : 2021 PH27.
NoirLab. (n.d.). Fastest orbiting asteroid discovered at NOIRLab’s CTIO – about a kilometer across, space Rock 2021 PH27 is the Sun’s nearest neighbor.
Phys.org. (2021, August 23). Fastest orbiting asteroid discovered.
Tangermann, V. (2021, August 23). Scientists just discovered the fastest asteroid in the solar system. Futurism.
Wall, M. (2021, August 23). Fastest-orbiting asteroid in solar system discovered. Space.com.

Written by Vladislav Tchakarov

Hello, my name is Vladislav and I am glad to have you here on Curiosmos. My experience as a freelance writer began in 2018 but I have been part of the Curiosmos family since mid-2020. As a history student, I have a strong passion for history and science, and the opportunity to research and write in this field on a daily basis is a dream come true.

Write for us

We’re always looking for new guest authors and we welcome individual bloggers to contribute high-quality guest posts.

Get In Touch