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New Observations Suggest Psyche’s Composition Different Than Thought

8 Apr 2020, 09:46 UTC
New Observations Suggest Psyche’s Composition Different Than Thought
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This artist’s concept depicts the spacecraft of NASA’s Psyche mission near the mission’s target, the metal asteroid Psyche. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Arizona State Univ./Space Systems Loral/Peter Rubin)

TEMPE, Az. (ASU PR) — The Arizona State University-led NASA Psyche mission, which is planned to launch in 2022, will travel to an asteroid named Psyche, orbiting the sun between Mars and Jupiter. This asteroid is of particular interest in that it is rich in metal and may be the exposed nickel-iron core of an early planet, one of the building blocks of the sun’s planetary system.

While we’ll have to wait until the spacecraft arrives at Psyche in 2026 to fully investigate the properties of this unique asteroid, researchers are using the latest high-resolution images, radar measurements and other remote observations to add to our knowledge of the asteroid and prepare for the mission.

In a study recently published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, lead author Lindy Elkins-Tanton of ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration and her team, including ASU researchers Jim Bell, Hannah Bercovici, Steven Dibb and David Williams, analyzed new observations of Psyche’s physical properties and determined that Psyche may be different in composition than originally thought.

“Some years ...

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