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What do experts think about the asteroid Phaethon 3200?

NASA experts found out that Asteroid Phaethon 3200 is a strange space object that was once thought to be a comet.

Scientists thought that the asteroid’s tail, which is growing, was made of dust because it looks and acts like a comet. However, new study published in the Planetary Science journal showed that the tail is made of sodium gas.

The study’s main author, Qicheng Zang, used the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory satellite to study Phaethon and its tail.

Nasa said that most asteroids, which are made of rock, don’t usually have tails when they get close to the sun. Instead, comets, which are made of rock and ice, usually have tails.

In a NASA post, Zhang, who is also a PhD student at California Institute of Technology, said, “A lot of those other sun-skirting “comets” may not be comets in the usual, icy body sense. Instead, they may be rocky asteroids like Phaethon that have been heated up by the sun.”

Geminid meteor showers happen every year because of Phaethon, but most meteor showers are caused by comets. It was easy to see why scientists thought Phaethon’s tail was made of dust. Meteor showers were caused by burning debris in the tail.

After finding out that Soudium has a tail, Phaethon is trying to figure out why the Geminid meteor shower happens every year.

Zhang’s team said that Phaethon may have thrown out the material that makes up the Geminid debris stream because of a big event that happened a few thousand years ago.

Researchers might learn more about this behaviour by the end of this decade.

The upcoming DESTINY+ mission from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency is expected to fly by Phaethon and take detailed pictures of its rocky surface. This would help scientists study any dust that might be around the asteroid.

Since 2017, when it came close to Earth and was called “potentially hazardous” by the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Centre, Phaethon has also been watched by NASA.