The asteroid 16 Psyche is again in the spotlight. This time around, we might finally understand its peculiar nature.
The research, realized by Dr. Tracy Becker, a Southwest Research Institute planetary scientist, focused on the asteroid’s features and the first ultraviolet observations.
The findings are truly astonishing and offer a better view of Psyche than previously.
Here is what you need to know.
Asteroid Psyche is approximately 140 miles in diameter, being one of the biggest objects in the main asteroid belt orbiting between Mars and Jupiter. First, observations showed that Psyche is a thick, mostly metallic object believed to be the remnant core of a planet that couldn’t evolve properly.
The recent research, however, followed a different path and brings essential details. Dr. Becker and her team observed Psyche at two specific points in its movement to spot both edges and outline as much as possible from surveying the surface at UV wavelengths.
The team’s findings
The researchers succeeded in spotting for the first time iron oxide UV absorption bands. Such a thing proves that oxidation is occurring on Psyche. It could also be a result of the solar wind reaching the ground.
Dr. Becker’s research emerges as NASA is getting ready to send the spacecraft Psyche, that will fly to the asteroid. The space agency’s goal is to understand the source of planetary cores better.
NASA’s mission will begin in 2022. Scientists think that Psyche could show them what’s inside a planet.
Dr. Becker said:
“Once we get to Psyche, we’re really going to understand if that’s the case, even if it doesn’t turn out as we expect.”
The team believes, too, that Psyche’s surface could be mainly iron. A small amount of iron could manage significant UV observations.
Asteroid Psyche is probably the most peculiar object in the Universe at the moment.
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