NASA is set to launch a tennis court-sized probe this year to the asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter; Where the remnants of the early Solar System orbited the Sun. After the probe reaches the asteroid belt, it will zero in on Psyche, a large, metal-rich asteroid thought to be the ancient center of the early planet. In fact, the probe is named after the asteroid and will orbit it for about two years and analyze how the early planetary bodies evolved.
But ahead of the mission, planetary scientists have produced the most detailed maps ever of the asteroid’s surface. These maps are based on observations taken by a large series of ground telescopes in northern Chile. The maps show huge metal-rich regions on the asteroid’s surface, along with a large depression that appears to have a distinct surface texture between the interior and its rim. This gap could potentially be a crater filled with fine sand and filled with rocky material.
The research team presented the maps in a research article titled “The Heterogeneous Surface of Asteroid (16) Psyche,” published in the journal JGR Planets.
Overall, the surface of the psyche was revealed to be astonishingly different in its properties. The maps also point to the asteroid’s history. The rocky regions on it may be the remains of an ancient mantle, similar to the rocky outermost layer of Earth, Mars and the asteroid Versa. On the other hand, it could also result from past impacts made by space rocks.
best of express premium
Previous studies have proposed the idea that the asteroid may have experienced early eruptions of metallic lava as its ancient core cooled. Craters with metallic content support this idea. The surface of Psyche has been the focus of many previous mapping efforts, with researchers observing the asteroid using various telescopes to measure the light emitted at infrared wavelengths from the asteroid, which yields information about the surface composition of Psyche. However, these studies could not spatially resolve variations in surface composition until recently.
The researchers used the combined power of 66 radio antennae from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in northern Chile. Each of these antennas measures the light emitted from an object at millimeter wavelengths; Within a range that is sensitive to temperature and to certain electrical properties of the surface material.
ALMA turned its full attention to Psyche on June 19, 2019, as it orbited and rotated within the asteroid belt. The researchers collected data during this period and converted it into a map of thermal emissions on the asteroid’s surface, which the team reported in a study published in 2021. In another study published the same year, the team used this data to make the most of it. Recent high-resolution 3D shape model of Manas.
In the latest study, researchers ran simulations of Psyche to see which surface properties could match and explain previously measured thermal emissions. The researchers set the asteroid’s surface with different combinations of materials, such as regions with different metal abundances. They modeled the asteroid’s rotation and measured how the simulated material on the asteroid would give off thermal emissions. They then looked for simulated emissions that best matched the actual emissions previously measured by ALMA.