Astronomers have revealed the most detailed map of asteroid Psyche to date -2022

Zoom / Astronomers at MIT and elsewhere have mapped the composition of asteroid Psyche, revealing a surface of metal, sand and rock.


Astronomers have produced the most detailed map yet of the surface of 16-Psyche, an asteroid that scientists believe may hold clues to the formation of planets in our solar system. According to a paper published in the Journal of Geophysical Research, 16-Psyche has a highly diverse surface of minerals, sands, and rocks, suggesting that its history could include mineral eruptions, as well as collisions with other celestial bodies. The asteroid is at the center of NASA’s Psyche mission, which is due to launch later this year.

As we mentioned earlier16, the M-type psychic asteroid (meaning it has a high metal content) orbits the sun in the Main Asteroid Belt, unusually potato-like. The long favored hypothesis is that Psyche has been the exposed mineral core of a protoplanet (a minor planet) since the earliest days of our solar system, its crust and mantle being stripped by collisions (or multiple collisions) with other objects. In recent years, scientists have come to the conclusion that mass and density estimates do not match all metal residues. Instead, it will likely be a complex mixture of minerals and silicates.

Alternatively, the asteroid may have once been the parent body of a certain class of stony and iron meteorites, those that broke up and reshaped to form a mixture of metal and silicates. or maybe something like Series 1, a dwarf planet in the asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, with the exception of 16 Psyche, may have experienced a period of iron volcanoes during cooling, leaving highly enriched minerals in these volcanic centers.

Scientists have long suspected that metallic cores lie as deep as terrestrial planets like Earth. But these nuclei are too buried under the mantle and crusts of rock for researchers to be able to detect them. As the only mineral object ever discovered, Psyche offers an ideal opportunity to shed light on the formation of the rocky planets of our solar system (Earth, Mercury, Venus and Mars). NASA accepted a self-mission in 2017, with the aim of sending a spacecraft into orbit around the asteroid and collecting important data on its properties.

On the left, the map shows the surface features of Psyche, ranging from sandy areas (purple/low) to rocky areas (yellow/high). The map on the right shows the abundance of minerals on Psyche, from low (purple) to high (yellow).

Previous mapping efforts have relied on measuring infrared light bouncing off the asteroid’s surface using various telescopes around the world. Last year, astronomers produced a much higher resolution surface map of Psyche, based on 2019 observational data collected by the 66 radio antennas of the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile.

By combining all of these signals into a single artificial signal, the team achieved the equivalent resolution of a telescope with a diameter of 16 kilometers (10 miles), or about 20 miles per pixel. This view allowed them to resolve many compositional differences on the asteroid’s surface. Use it to create a map file of the asteroid’s surface heat emissions with high accuracy. car 3d model.

This latest map is based on hundreds of computer-simulated scenarios, each with a different mix of surface material composition, taking into account the rotation of the asteroid. The team then compared these simulations with the actual heat emissions in the ALMA data to determine the most likely map of 16-Psyche’s surface.

Result: the asteroid is rich in minerals, but their distribution on the surface varies. An equally varied distribution of silicates indicates that 16-Psyche may have had a silica-rich mantle. Additionally, the material at the bottom of the craters changes temperature faster than along the rim as the asteroid rotates. The authors suggest that these craters may contain sediments (“puddles”) of fine sand. This is somewhat surprising considering 16-Psyche’s stronger mass and gravity, compared to smaller asteroids that contain fine-grained material.

“These data show that the surface of Psyche is heterogeneous, with marked differences in composition.” Simon Marchi said of the Southwest Research Institute, a psychic tasks researcher who was not involved in the current study. “One of the main objectives of the Psyche mission is to study the composition of the asteroid’s surface using gamma rays, a neutron spectrometer and a color imager. Therefore, the possibility of variations in composition is something the team at Psyche Science is eager to investigate further.”

DOI: Journal of Geophysical Research, 2022. 10.1029/2021JE007091/a> (About DOIs).

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