New NASA Mission Could Solve Mystery Of Water On Asteroid ‘Psyche’

First Posted: Jan 11, 2017 04:10 AM EST

A new NASA mission aimed to be launched in 2023 will reportedly study Psyche, one of the 10 most massive asteroids in the asteroid belt. Thought to be made of metal, researchers have recently found the evidence of water on the celestial object, which has left them baffled, and the actual presence of water can only be confirmed after the scheduled mission goes off as planned.

An irregularly shaped M-type asteroid with a 124-mile diameter, Psyche was discovered in 1852 by Italian astronomer Annibale de Gasparis. A recent research conducted by a team of scientists led by Driss Takir of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) observed that the asteroid's spectra exhibited a 3-micron absorption feature, something that is possible because of hydroxyl or water.

The new findings indicate that the asteroid could actually be a water-rich one. However, the probable presence of water on Psyche has left researchers baffled about the origin of water on the rocky asteroid, with many theories making the rounds.

"It is possible that water-rich minerals detected on Psyche might have been delivered to its surface by carbonaceous asteroids that impacted Psyche in the distant past," Takir said, as quoted by SpaceFlight Insider. "We also think that Psyche may not be entirely exposed metallic core. Solar wind could be another mechanism that can produce hydroxyl by interacting with the surface of Psyche."

Psyche is being studied by an optimized telescope; however, that is not the same as an actual scientific probe on the asteroid itself. Therefore, the Psyche mission would enable the researchers to better understand hydration on the metal world's surface and solve the mysterious origin of the water.

The Psyche mission is slated to be launched in 2023. The spacecraft is expected to arrive at the asteroid in 2030, where it will spend 20 months in orbit around the asteroid mapping it and observing its properties.

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