NASA’s Psyche mission, named after its destination, attempts to discover whether the 140-mile-wide metal-rich asteroid is the unprotected core of a protoplanet, as scientists think it might be. Presently, scientists on the mission have a new resource to discuss.
In recent research, scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and elsewhere utilized the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in northern Chile to mealess the light radiated from Psyche, enabling the researchers to determine the temperature and specific electrical properties of materials on the surface.
Then, the scientists adjusted the thermal emissions from Psyche to simulated emissions, disclosing varying amounts of metals and silicates (a vast group of minerals made of silicon and oxygen combined with other elements) across the surface of Psyche.
“These maps confirm that metal-rich asteroids are interesting, enigmatic worlds,” lead author Saverio Cambioni, also a planetary scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said in a statement. “It’s another reason to look forward to the Psyche mission going to the asteroid.”
Psyche was intended to launch on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket on August 1st but is presently aiming to launch no earlier than September 20th because of software issues. The delay has knock-on impacts on two small tag-along satellites, which have to adjust their targets for planned asteroid flybys.