Strange asteroid is even weirder than astronomers thought, NASA says

According to NASA researchers, Asteroid 3200 Phaethon, previously known as a space oddity, possesses even more peculiar characteristics than initially believed.

In a recent announcement on Tuesday, they disclosed that the asteroid exhibits comet-like behavior, challenging previous assumptions that its tail was composed of dust, CBS News reported.

Instead, a newly published study in The Planetary Science Journal reveals that Phaethon’s tail is primarily comprised of sodium gas.

The investigation, led by Qicheng Zang, a PhD student from the California Institute of Technology, employed data from the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory spacecraft to scrutinize Phaethon and its tail.

NASA clarifies that while most asteroids consist of rock and typically do not generate tails when approaching the sun, comets, consisting of rock and ice, commonly develop tails.

Given the findings from the study on Phaethon, Zhang and other scientists are now contemplating whether certain objects classified as comets may not adhere to the conventional definition.

Zhang expressed this intriguing possibility in a NASA post, stating, “A lot of those other ‘comets’ that come close to the Sun may not be ‘comets’ in the customary sense of icy bodies, but could be rocky asteroids akin to Phaethon, heated by the Sun.”

Written by staff