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Asteroid discovered with shortest orbit yet

Astroid's orbit
Click for full image.

Astronomers have discovered an asteroid that circles the Sun with the shortest orbit yet found, flying mostly inside the orbit of Mercury.

The illustration to the right shows the asteroids orbit, which is also tilted 32 degrees from the plane of the solar system.

The orbit of the approximately 1-kilometer-diameter asteroid takes it as close as 20 million kilometers (12 million miles or 0.13 au), from the Sun every 113 days. Asteroid 2021 PH27, revealed in images acquired during twilight, also has the smallest mean distance (semi-major axis) of any known asteroid in our Solar System — only Mercury has a shorter period and smaller semi-major axis. The asteroid is so close to the Sun’s massive gravitational field, it experiences the largest general relativistic effects of any known Solar System object.

Relatively few asteroids have been found with orbits shorter than Earth’s, because to find them astronomers have to turn their telescopes sunward, where viewing is limited to the early evening or early morning. Few space-based telescopes in all wavelengths also don’t look this way much, because of the risk of damage from the intense sunlight.

It is thus unknown exactly how many asteroids exist with similar orbits. There may be many, with many having short eccentric orbits, similar to comets, that extend out to Earth’s orbit and thus pose a risk. Or there may be few, since such orbits so close to the Sun are likely to cause the asteroid’s break-up and destruction over time.

Knowing how many of course is important, in order to obtain a full census of those asteroids in the solar system that might hit the Earth. To get it will likely require placing a probe designed to look for them.

Conscious Choice cover

Now available in hardback and paperback as well as ebook!

 

From the press release: In this ground-breaking new history of early America, historian Robert Zimmerman not only exposes the lie behind The New York Times 1619 Project that falsely claims slavery is central to the history of the United States, he also provides profound lessons about the nature of human societies, lessons important for Americans today as well as for all future settlers on Mars and elsewhere in space.

 
Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.  
Conscious Choice does more however. In telling the tragic history of the Virginia colony and the rise of slavery there, Zimmerman lays out the proper path for creating healthy societies in places like the Moon and Mars.

 

“Zimmerman’s ground-breaking history provides every future generation the basic framework for establishing new societies on other worlds. We would be wise to heed what he says.” —Robert Zubrin, founder of founder of the Mars Society.

 

All editions are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all book vendors, with the ebook priced at $5.99 before discount. The ebook can also be purchased direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit, in which case you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.

 

Autographed printed copies are also available at discount directly from me (hardback $24.95; paperback $14.95; Shipping cost for either: $5.00). Just email me at zimmerman @ nasw dot org.

3 comments

  • Max

    I wonder if it’s a “pile of rubble”, or a large chunk of rock? perfect for an observational satellite to shadow!
    The astroid protecting the satellite from the suns radiation and static interference, so it can perform its science mission, launching small probes, while searching the inner solar system for more astroids?
    Every new discovery comes with it new possibilities…

  • mkent

    Knowing how many of course is important, in order to obtain a full census of those asteroids in the solar system that might hit the Earth. To get it will likely require placing a probe designed to look for them.

    The NEO Surveyor is already under development.

  • Jeff Wright

    Call it Vulcan…a solar furnace. Eat out the back and focus a beam out the tailpipe.

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