In 2022, astronomers spotted the asteroid named (16) The soulknown as Psyche, using Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (Sophia) of NASA. It was an observatory consisting of a Boeing 747SP aircraft modified to carry a reflecting telescope. SOFIA has made it possible to collect data on the materials that make up the asteroid’s surface, which is impossible for ground-based telescopes. Based on this data, Scientists have hypothesized that Psyche is rich in minerals. In particular, the hypothesis has been put forward that this asteroid could be derived from the iron-rich interior of a planetary planet (the intermediate stage in planetary formation). The latter could have been deprived of its outer rocky crust after its repeated collisions with other celestial bodies during the beginning of the formation of the solar system.
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How to trace the mineral composition of an asteroid
The researchers used an infrared camera to measure the emissivity of Psyche’s surface. Psyche’s emissivity data was mostly flat, meaning there were no noticeable features in its spectrum. Even in the laboratory, flat spectra are obtained when analyzing metallic objects using mid-infrared instruments. This led researchers to conclude that Psyche is probably a metallic object.
It is worth noting that the spectral feature is called Plateau 10 microns, which usually refers to a “smooth” surface, such as lunar regolith. However, previously, some studies conducted when Psyche turned the South Pole towards us, observed this property. The fact that in the study in question, where instead plateau It did not appear that the asteroid was oriented so that the North Pole appeared to us, which suggests that the surface may differ between the poles. In this regard, the team hypothesizes that the Antarctic regolith may have been ejected as a result of the impact elsewhere on the surface. In fact, large depressions and meteorite craters have been discovered on Psyche.
But what is the importance of self-study? Planets such as Earth, Mars and Mercury are thought to have metallic cores, but they are buried too far beneath their mantles and crusts to be seen directly. However, if Psyche is confirmed to be a planetary core, it could help scientists understand what’s inside planets like our own.
Finally, we invite you to follow with us the launch of the Psyche space probe mission, scheduled by NASA during this month. The goal of the mission is to study the asteroid of the same name.
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