An international team of researchers under the leadership of Joseph Hanus, an employee of the Observatory of the côte d’azur, studied a huge asteroid called Faeton, which pretty soon will approach the Earth at a record close distance. The experts were able to clarify the size, shape and rotation speed of the cosmic body that is assumed to be the source of the meteor shower Geminids.
In 2007, the Faeton will be held at a distance of about 10 million kilometers from Earth. Although this time he does not pose a threat to the planet, the further it will fly closer to the planet. Like other asteroids, belonging to the group of Apollo, whose orbits cross the earth’s orbit from the outside, Faeton refers to potentially dangerous. But it attracts attention of scientists not for a very modest hypothetical threat posed, but because he possesses many unusual features — in particular, belongs to a rare spectral class B and has extremely unusual elongated orbit which crosses the orbits of all four terrestrial planets from mercury to Mars. Discovered Faeton was in 1987, becoming the first asteroid discovered in pictures.
Also Faeton is a curious fact that of its fragments, in all probability, is meteor shower Geminids observed in the first half of December and is one of the most powerful of all that can be seen on the Ground. It is worth noting that usually “ancestors” of these flows are comets, not asteroidy, so Faeton is a noteworthy exception in this regard.
The scientists collected many data about the change in the brightness of the asteroid in various periods, summarizing. information obtained by using nine telescopes. As a result, experts managed to build a geometric model of the cosmic body and find out what the size of the asteroid is approximately five miles, and a full rotation around its axis makes it in 3.6 hours.