The asteroid known as 16 Psyche is one of the largest objects in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. It’s also a goldmine, almost literally speaking! Psyche is rich in metals such as iron and nickel, and it has a diameter that measures about 200 km. So if you want to become rich, grabbing some metal from the 16 Psyche asteroid might be the answer. But astronomers seem to have the same thing in mind.
Our publication found out in 2019 that NASA is preparing to explore the 16 Psyche asteroid in more detail. We still have to wait for that mission, but that doesn’t mean that NASA astronomers forgot about the asteroid completely. According to ScienceAlert, an array of telescopes gathered enough information for researchers to be able to build a map of the space object ahead of the upcoming mission to study the asteroid up-close.
An M-type asteroid or a dwarf planet?
The new map of the 16 Psyche asteroid was published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, and it’s known as “The Heterogeneous Surface of Asteroid (16) Psyche.”
Saverio Cambioni from the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences (EAPS) of MIT, who’s also the lead author behind the map, explained:
Psyche’s surface is very heterogeneous,
It’s an evolved surface, and these maps confirm that metal-rich asteroids are interesting enigmatic worlds. It’s another reason to look forward to the Psyche mission going to the asteroid.
16 Psyche can be considered either an M-type asteroid or a dwarf planet due to its huge size. M-type asteroids are those objects that have more metal in their composition compared to other asteroids. These asteroids also represent only 8 percent of the known asteroids.
The upcoming Psyche mission of NASA is scheduled this year in the fall, and the spacecraft in question will arrive at the asteroid in 2026. For 21 months, the spacecraft will be studying the space object.