Scientists reveal diverse properties of asteroid Psyche

A study found that the surface of the asteroid contains a diverse range of properties.

Psyche illustration (photo credit: NASA/JPL-CALTECH/PUBLIC DOMAIN/VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)
Psyche illustration
(photo credit: NASA/JPL-CALTECH/PUBLIC DOMAIN/VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)

NASA plans to launch a probe to the asteroid belt in order to analyze the surface of the asteroid Psyche in order to find information about the evolution of early planetary bodies.

In a new peer-reviewed paper in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, a team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and other institutions unveiled the most detailed maps of the surface yet. Based on data from an array of telescopes in Chile, the maps show an abundance of metals on Psyche's surface and a crater containing different textures between the rim and the inside.

The study found that the surface contained a diverse range of properties.

The maps indicate that the asteroid may have had a mantle like Earth and Mars. Furthermore, the presence of metals in craters suggests that metallic lava eruptions may have occurred on the asteroid.

The study was led by Saverio Cambioni, the Crosby Distinguished Postdoctoral Fellow at MIT's Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences (EAPS), with Caltech assistant professor of planetary science and astronomy Katherine de Kleer and Bloomsburg University professor of environmental, geographical and geological sciences Michael Shepard.

Aerial view of the East Campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) along the Charles River (credit: NICK ALLEN/CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)/VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)Aerial view of the East Campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) along the Charles River (credit: NICK ALLEN/CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)/VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)

Heterogenous surface

“Psyche’s surface is very heterogeneous. It’s an evolved surface, and these maps confirm that metal-rich asteroids are interesting, enigmatic worlds. It’s another reason to look forward to the Psyche mission going to the asteroid.”

Lead author Saverio Cambioni, Crosby Distinguished Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences (EAPS), MIT

“Psyche’s surface is very heterogeneous,” Cambioni said. “It’s an evolved surface, and these maps confirm that metal-rich asteroids are interesting, enigmatic worlds. It’s another reason to look forward to the Psyche mission going to the asteroid.”