The fastest orbiting asteroid in the Solar System discovered

The identified space rock, also one of the closest to the Sun, has the shortest orbital period ever recorded. The asteroid, named 2021 PH27, was observed at Cerro Tololo, Chile.

A group of astronomers has discovered a new asteroid that takes only 113 Earth days to go around the Sun, making it the fastest space rock in the Solar System, according to the Inter-American Observatory of Cerro Tololo, in Chile.

The asteroid, dubbed by scientists 2021 PH27, is also the second-fastest astronomical object to complete its orbit around the Sun, considering that Mercury takes only 88 Earth days.

However, unlike Mercury, 2021 PH27 has a much more elliptical trajectory – oval in shape – than the planet, so it is much closer to the Sun, about 20 million kilometres at its nearest point.

Given this new background, the asteroid of a kilometre in diameter is also the astronomical object most exposed to high temperatures -500 degrees Celsius- and the massive gravitational field of the Sun.

It could be a comet from another solar system.

Researchers believe that the 2021 PH27 space rock, first observed on August 13 with the Dark Energy Camera (DEC) telescope, could be part of an extinct comet that originated in an outer solar system and was subsequently trapped in the orbit of the Sun.

“Most likely, 2021 PH27 detached itself from the main asteroid belt between Jupiter and Mars, and that the gravity of the inner planets shaped its orbit in its current configuration,” explained Scott S. Sheppard of the Carnegie Institution of Science and discoverer of the asteroid.

However, the expert added, “it may be an extinct comet, which came from the outer Solar System […] and the trajectory of its journey brought it closer to the inner Solar System.”

It won’t be visible again for a year.

The new observations of the space rock could be relevant to discovering what types of asteroids could one day pose a threat to Earth.

However, future research regarding asteroid 2021 PH27 will have to wait. These will not continue until the space rock is visible again in 2022 when it stops “hiding” behind the Sun.