University of Arizona | Lunar and Planetary Laboratory | 2016 Oct 21
A large asteroid thought to be the metallic core of a destroyed proto-planet appears to have molecules on its surface that shouldn't be there, according to a new study — unless they were delivered by other asteroids.
Astronomers have discovered possible evidence for water on the surface of the largest metallic asteroid in the solar system.
Named 16 Psyche, the bolide is one of the most massive in the Asteroid Belt, measuring 186 miles across and consisting of almost pure nickel-iron metal. It is thought to be the remnant core of a planetary embryo that was mostly destroyed by impacts billions of years ago. ...
"We did not expect a metallic asteroid like Psyche to be covered by water and/or hydroxyl," said Reddy, second author on the paper led by Driss Takir at the U.S. Geological Survey in Flagstaff, Arizona. "Metal-rich asteroids like Psyche are thought to have formed under dry conditions without the presence of water or hydroxyl, so we were puzzled by our observations at first."
The findings are interesting in the context of a proposed $500 million mission to send a spacecraft to Psyche, currently under review by NASA. Images taken by a spacecraft orbiting Psyche would enable us to distinguish between water and hydroxyl on the surface. ...
Detection of Water and/or Hydroxyl on Asteroid (16) Psyche - Driss Takir et al
- arXiv.org > astro-ph > arXiv:1610.00802 > 04 Oct 2016