The asteroid Psyche may not be as metallic as you think

Archive – Asteroid Psyche – SOUTHWEST RESEARCH INSTITUTE – Archivo


The widely studied metallic asteroid known as 16 Psyche has long been thought to be the exposed iron core of a small planet doomed at the dawn of the solar system.

But new research led by the University of Arizona suggests that the asteroid might not be as metallic or dense as thought, and suggests a very different origin story.

Scientists are interested in 16 Psyche because if its supposed origins are true, it would provide an opportunity to study an exposed planetary core up close. NASA plans to launch a mission to Psyche in 2022 and reach the asteroid in 2026.

University of Arizona student David Cantillo is the lead author of a new article published in The Planetary Science Journal which proposes that 16 Psyche is 82.5% metal, 7% low iron pyroxene and 10.5% carbonaceous chondrite which was probably delivered by impacts from other asteroids. Cantillo and his collaborators estimate that the apparent density of 16 Psyche, also known as porosity, which refers to the amount of empty space found within your body, it is around 35%.

These estimates differ from previous analyzes of the composition of 16 Psyche which led the researchers to estimate that it could contain up to 95% metal and be much denser.

“That drop in metallic content and bulk density is interesting because it shows that 16 Psyche is more modified than previously thought,” Cantillo said. it’s a statement.

See Also:  Results and rankings

Rather than being an intact exposed core from a primitive planet, it could actually be closer to a pile of rubble like the already visited Bennu. “Psyche as a pile of debris would be very unexpected, but our data continues to show low density estimates despite its high metallic content,” Cantillo said.

Asteroid 16 Psyche is 210 kilometers long, and scientists estimate that it contains about 1% of all material in the asteroid belt.. First discovered by an Italian astronomer in 1852, it was the 16th asteroid discovered.

“Having a lower metallic content than previously thought means that the asteroid could have been exposed to collisions with asteroids containing the more common carbonaceous chondrites, which deposited a surface layer that we are observing,” Cantillo said. This was also observed on the asteroid Vesta by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft.

Asteroid 16 Psyche has been estimated to be worth $ 10,000 trillion worth of iron ore, but the new findings could slightly devalue this sum.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.