It is close enough to the Sun that it melts lead.
Scott Sheppard, a Carnegie Institution of Science staff scientist, led a team of scientists that discovered the fastest-orbiting star in the solar system.
This tiny space rock is just 1 km across and has been dubbed 2021PH27. It travels around the Sun in just 113 Earth days. It has the shortest orbital time of any celestial object except Mercury, which orbits the Sun in 88 days. However, its elliptical orbit travels within 12.4 million miles of it, while Mercury never gets closer to 29 million.
This discovery could shed light onto the existence of other asteroids similar to it in the solar system. It also sheds light on where they come from and whether or not they are made of solid rock.
Because 2021 PH27 is so close to the Sun's surface, its surface heats up at a blistering 900° Fahrenheit. This temperature is hot enough for lead to melt.
It is probable that the asteroid will continue to move closer to our star, eventually colliding with Mercury or Venus within a few million year.
Researchers believe it was born in the main belt of asteroid between Mars and Jupiter. It was then pulled towards the Sun by gravititational forces from the outer planets.
Sheppard stated in a statement that the fraction of asteroids inside Earth and Venus will provide insight into their strength and makeup.
This is essential if we are to defend the Earth against a future barrage from asteroids.
Sheppard said that it is crucial to understand the number of asteroids within Earth's orbit in order to complete the Earth impactor census. This includes the most likely Earth-impactors that could approach Earth during daylight.
2021 PH27, currently hiding behind the Sun. However, researchers hope to catch a glimpse of the speed demon early next year.
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