NewsStrange celestial body: Asteroid Phaeton behaves like a comet

Strange celestial body: Asteroid Phaeton behaves like a comet

Phaeton is an unusual celestial body: the asteorid behaves like a comet. Researchers have now found a solution to the puzzle.

California – The asteroid Phaeton has been a topic of concern to astronomy * for a long time. It behaves in a very unusual way, because Phaeton behaves more like a comet. As its orbit brings Phaeton closer to the Sun, it will become brighter. In doing so, he pushes off rocks.

Asteroid Phaeton behaves like a comet

Comets behave like that too. They consist of rock, dust and ice. If they get too close to the sun, they heat up and the ice evaporates. Comets therefore give off boulders and dust, which cause a bright tail and are responsible for meteor showers. Asteroids, on the other hand, consist of rocks and metals. There is no ice on them.

Scientists have long tried to get to the bottom of this unusual behavior of the asteroid Phaeton. A group of researchers in California published a study that provides an explanation.

Asteroid behaves like a comet: Researchers find an explanation

When Phaeton approaches the Sun, the asteroid’s surface heats up to 750 degrees Celsius. Sodium evaporates in the asteroid and escapes into space. The result is a glow that is about as bright with Phaeton as with comets. Because asteroids have hardly any gravity, according to study author Börn Davidsson, the power of the escaping sodium is enough to loosen rocks and dust from the surface. The researchers from California assume that only a very small amount of sodium is required for this.

Asteroid Phaeton behaves like a comet: laboratory tests support theory

The experts have verified their theory of the behavior of the asteroid Phaeton with new modeling and tests in the laboratory. To do this, they examined samples from the Allende meteorite, which crashed in Mexico in 1969 and is believed to have come from an asteroid like Phaeton. To do this, they heated the rock to the same temperature that occurs at Phaeton when the asteroid is closest to the sun. In the laboratory test, too, the sodium was lost, while the other elements remained. The researchers therefore conclude that the same thing happens at Phaeton.

The asteroid Phaeton was discovered in 1983. It gets its name because of its proximity to the sun. It is named after the son of Helios, the sun god in Greek mythology. Phaeton is also the closest asteroid to Earth. In December it causes the Geminids falling stars rain *. (Max Schäfer) * is an offer from IPPEN.MEDIA

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