Asteroid Phaethon was the first to be discovered by a satellite. But it turns out that it is also the strangest asteroid in our solar system. What makes it so unusual? NASA explains.
Asteroids, just like planets and stars and other celestial bodies, come in various shapes and sizes and attributes. But some of them are more dangerous and strange than the others. Asteroid 3200 Phaethon is one of those asteroids. It is the first ever asteroid to be discovered using a satellite and ever since its discovery it has baffled the astronomers. In fact, it would not be an overstatement to say that this asteroid is perhaps one of the most bizarre in our solar system. Why? Read on to find out.
The asteroid Phaethon was discovered on October 11, 1983 via a satellite observation of space. Before this, all known asteroids were spotted and observed using Earth-based telescopes and observatories. The first thing that astronomers noticed upon discovering the asteroid was that it was blue in color. This was highly surprising because asteroids are usually either gray in color due to the rocks and dust or reddish brown due to the iron in its composition. So the blue color took them by surprise. But little did they know that this asteroid was about to give them a lot more shocking revelations.
The first asteroid to be discovered by a satellite is also the strangest in our solar system
It turns out that this asteroid also goes closest to the Sun than any other named asteroids at a distance of 13 million miles from the Sun. For reference, the closest planet Mercury revolves around the Sun at three times the distance compared to the asteroid. A recent study has claimed that the asteroid’s blue color is because of the close proximity to the Sun as the heat vaporizes the redder constituents of the space rock and leaves behind the bluer contents. While the published paper is yet to be peer reviewed, it does offer one explanation for its characteristics.
But this is not where the weirdness of this asteroid ends. NASA has also found that Phaethon is the only asteroid-based origin point of a meteor shower. Every single other meteor shower is caused by a comet. The asteroid causes the Geminids meteor shower that takes place in the month of December. Due to this behavior, it is also called a rock comet.