NASA Parker Probe Captures Phaethon's Dust Trail In Detail


NASA spacecraft has stumbled upon the asteroid Phaethon's debris trail. The NASA Parker Solar Probe has now captured something unique with its wide-field imager, which looks like a faint line of dust. Karl Battams, an astrophysicist at the US Naval Research Laboratory has confirmed it as Phaethon's dust trail for the first time.

NASA Parker Probe Captures Phaethon's Dust Trail In Detail


What Is Phaethon?

Phaethon is an asteroid that flew too close to the Sun and couldn't withstand the scorching heat of the giant gas and plasma ball. The asteroid was named Phaethon, for the child of the Greek Sun god Apollo, who couldn't handle his father's chariot and nearly destroyed the world. Every year around this time, the Earth plunges through the asteroid's orbit and we can witness the broken debris in our atmosphere.

For years, scientists have struggled to capture an image of the Phaethon's debris trail, till now. The NASA Parker Solar Probe that took off in 2018 has been closely studying the magnetic fields and energy particles near the Sun's atmosphere. Luckily, it has captured the faint line of dust, which has been confirmed as the Phaethon's dust trail.

"We're very confident that we're seeing the Geminid meteor shower," said Battams at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union. Earlier, astronomers tried in vain to capture the Phaethon's dust trail with the Hubble space telescope. But its proximity to the Sun glared with the light and wasn't possible till the Parker Solar Probe went past it.

NASA Parker Probe Captures Phaethon's Dust Trail In Detail


Why Is It Important?

The NASA Parker Solar Probe has captured the Phaethon's debris trail that is 60,000 miles across and 12 million miles long. The dust trail covers the entire length of Phaethon's 524-day orbit and could be containing a billion kg of asteroid material.

The Phaethon history could unveil the Earth's future, scientists believe. Scientists are studying the debris trail that could help understand what caused the Phaethon to splinter several thousand years ago. NASA has classified the Phaethon asteroid as a potentially hazardous Near-Earth Object. However, there haven't been collision predictions for the past 400 years.

The NASA Parker Probe is scheduled to fly by an additional 21 loops around the Sun. This means we have 21 more chances to capture Phaethon's dust. Battams says that if NASA has some luck, we could capture more images of the Phaethon's dust trail.

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