Asteroid 2024 BX1 is the fastest-spinning space rock ever recorded


An asteroid that passed through Germany's atmosphere in January was rotating faster than any near-Earth object ever recorded, new research has revealed.

A space rock named 2024 BX1 entered Earth's atmosphere in the early hours of January 21, 2024, and ignited over Berlin.

Although small asteroids on a collision course with Earth are mostly detected when they crash into the atmosphere, scientists detected this one just three hours before impact.

Fastest spin ever seen

According to a new paper, this is not the asteroid's only peculiarity. Researchers revealed that the asteroid, moving at a speed of 31,000 mph (50,000 km/h), was spinning once every 2.6 seconds, which is the fastest spin ever observed for an asteroid.

Earlier, a flying rock called 2020 HS7 had set the record for the fastest spin. Its rotation period was 2.99 seconds. Its diameter was between 13 to 24 feet (4 to 8 m), slightly larger than 2024 BX1.

Because size matters, the smaller 2024 BX1 was spinning faster than its predecessor.

Why do asteroids rotate?

There are many reasons behind the rotation of asteroids. Some of them involve being launched back into space after a collision. Due to their density, the smaller ones rotate faster than their larger counterparts.

In the words of Maxime Devogele, the lead author and a physicist at the University of Central Florida who works with the European Space Agency, “They have intrinsic strength so they can rotate fast.”

Devogele and his team researched the rotation motion of three asteroids, including 2024 BX1, using images taken as they approached Earth.

2013 CX1 and 2024 EF were other asteroids that were described based on close calls with Earth on February 13, 2023, and March 4, 2024, respectively.

Methodology

Researchers developed a new technique to visualize the circular rotations of asteroids.

This method involved adjusting the size of the aperture – the hole that light passes through to enter the camera, in order to keep the starry background sharp and make the asteroid appear as a trail of light.

Scientists mostly adjust the exposure time so that both the flying rock and the space region behind it are clear.

“Instead of tracking the asteroid's motion, which causes the stars to appear behind on the images, we observed the asteroid using sidereal tracking and letting the asteroid pass through the area,” the researchers shared in the paper.

Due to the long exposure time, the resulting images show 2024 BX1 moving behind the starry sky. “The advantage of this technology is that it allows [us] To extract the brightness of the object over time into single images,” the researchers note.

“We show that this technique works and is highly effective in detecting rapidly rotating asteroids.”

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Gayarika Mitra Garica is a techie, introvert and an avid reader. Lock him in a room full of books, and you'll never hear him complain.


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