NASA is set to launch the Psyche mission next year to visit the metal-rich asteroid in our solar system.
Psyche is a metallic asteroid. It is named after the Goddess of the Soul in ancient Greek mythology.
Psyche is a unique asteroid that is located in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. It is unique because of its structure.
The asteroid is 280 km wide and is largely made up of metals instead of dust and ice. This is usually not seen in other asteroids of our solar system.
Scientists will look for the clues that will help in understanding the origins of the asteroid and its formation. It is also critical in understanding formation of our solar system.
The spacecraft will investigate why Psyche asteroid appears to be deficient in iron oxides, which are chemical compounds made of iron and oxygen.
The mission will also study neutrons and gamma-ray emissions from the surface of the asteroid.
Components of mission
Magnetometer: it will be used to measure and map the remnant magnetic field of the asteroid.
Gamma-ray and Neutron spectrometer: It will help in analyzing and mapping the asteroid's elemental composition.
Multispectral imager: It aims to provide high-resolution images using filters to discriminate between metallic and silicate constituents.
Significance of mission
Scientists have the theory that the asteroid was stripped of its outer rocky mantle over the course of formation of our solar system due to variety of factors.
Study of magnetic field will help in finding evidences of it being a planetesimal, the building block of an early planet.
The mission will help scientists determine the asteroid’s chemical elements and composition.