2021 PH27, The Fastest and Most Brave Asteroid Approaching the Sun

TEMPO.CO, Jakarta – Like one sprinter, a asteroid was found darting fast around the sun. He is faster than any other asteroid ever known.

Batuan antariksa yang baru ditemukan pada 3 Agustus lalu dan diberi nama 2021 PH27 itu mampu menyelesaikan satu putaran orbitnya setiap 113 hari di Bumi, atau kurag dari empat bulan. Itu adalah orbit terpendek dan hanya kalah dari Planet Merkurius yang perlu 88 hari untuk sekali mengitari Matahari.

Namun, asteroid 2021 PH27 tetap yang tercepat karena orbitnya jauh lebih elips daripada Merkurius, yang membuatnya bisa lebih dekat ke Matahari. Jarak terdekatnya dari Matahari adalah 20 juta kilometer, bandingkan dengan 47 kilometer jarak terdekat yang bisa dicapai Merkurius.

Saat berada di orbitnya yang terdekat dari Matahari itu, permukaan 2021 PH27 diperkirakan bersuhu sekitar 500 derajat Celsius. Menyelami gravitasi Matahari lebih dalam berarti membuat asteroid ini mengalami efek relativitas terbesar dari yang pernah diketahui dialami obyek lain di tata surya. Efeknya berupa orbit elips 2021 PH7 yang terlihat sedikit bergoyang.

Astronomers believe the orbit will be unstable in the long term. Experts predict 2021 PH27 will hit the Sun, Mercury or Venus a few million years from now. That is, if the asteroid is not ejected from its orbit first due to gravitational interactions.

The asteroid was discovered on August 13 by a team of astronomers using the Dark Energy Camera (DEC). It is a very powerful multipurpose instrument that sits on the four-meter telescope at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile. With the same instrument, the orbit of the sprinter asteroid was successfully tracked within days.

Looking for asteroids is what scientists usually do between their research and observations of galaxy clusters. When they found 2021 PH27, they followed it to find out its orbit—and were willing to put off their main job.

The lead astronomer for the team that discovered 2021 PH27, Scott Sheppard, said the asteroid was an exciting new find. This astronomer from the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington, DC, United States, stated that the asteroid was one kilometer in diameter and had not been seen because it was too close to the sun.

Further observations could reveal more details but Sheppard and other astronomers will have to wait a few months to collect data because 2021 PH27 is now streaking behind the sun. “Asteroid it won’t reappear until early 2022,” said Sheppard and his team.


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