July 5, 2022

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Psyche's most accurate maps have been created.  You can prepare for the asteroid mission

Psyche’s most accurate maps have been created. You can prepare for the asteroid mission

New maps of the asteroid Psyche have revealed the dynamic history of this object.

Later this year, NASA plans to launch a tennis court-sized probe into the asteroid belt – the region between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter where the remnants of the early solar system are located. The probe, simply called Psyche, will spend two years orbiting the asteroid and analyzing its surface for evidence of the evolution of early planetary bodies.

Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology They know an alternative to what the Psyche spacecraft can see when it reaches its destination. They have developed the most detailed maps of the asteroid’s surface, based on observations made by ALMA, the world’s largest radio interferometer. The maps reveal vast areas rich in minerals that span the surface of the asteroid, along with a large depression that appears to have varied textures.

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Maps show the turbulent history of the asteroid. Its rocky regions may be remnants of an ancient mantle, similar in composition to the rocky outer layer of Earth, Mars, and the western asteroid, or traces of ancient cosmic rock traces. Craters containing metallic matter support the concept suggested by previous studies that the asteroid may have experienced an early metallic volcanic eruption as its ancient core cooled.

Psyche’s surface is very heterogeneous. It’s a sophisticated surface, and these maps confirm that mineral-rich asteroids are interesting and puzzling worlds. That’s another reason to look forward to the Psyche asteroid mission.Saverio Cambioni from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Scientists observed the asteroid Psytha with various telescopes measuring infrared light, which contains information about the composition of its surface. Now the Campione team has been able to see Psyche down to the smallest detail, at a resolution of 32 km/pixel, thanks to the power of the aforementioned ALMA interferometer. Both antennas measure light emitted by an object at millimeter wavelengths, in a range sensitive to temperature and certain electrical properties of surface materials.

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Psychological simulations were performed to find out which surface properties could best match the reported thermal emissions. As a result of the simulations, detailed maps of Psyche’s surface properties were produced, showing that the asteroid’s interface is probably covered with a variety of materials – possibly metals and silicates, which may indicate the presence of a silicate-rich mantle in the early period of asteroid formation.

Water holes of fine-grained material have been observed in small asteroids whose gravity is low enough that impacts shake the surface and cause micro-material to accumulate. But Psyche is a big body, so if micro-substances accumulate at the bottom of the depression, this is a little interesting and mysterious.Saverio Cambioni from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Psyche surface details can be found in the journal Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets.