With the help of the ALMA telescope, scientists have carried out accurate temperature measurements on the surface of the asteroid Psyche, where the space probe will soon go.
Scientists have compiled the first temperature map of the surface of the main belt asteroid (16) Psyche. This celestial body has a diameter of more than 200 kilometers and is rich in heavy metals, so it is believed that the asteroid may be the remnant of an embryo of a planet that has not yet formed. However, not all data agree with this hypothesis, and collecting new ones is extremely difficult: the distance from us to Psyche ranges from 180-330 million kilometers.
Considering the reflected light of such small and distant bodies, ground-based instruments rarely get more than one pixel per asteroid image. This allows you to learn many key characteristics, but not enough for a detailed study. Therefore, NASA is going to launch the Psyche mission in 2022, which will arrive in Psyche's orbit by 2026 and will be able to observe it up close. Recently, however, Katherine de Kleer and her colleagues were able to capture images of the asteroid with unprecedented resolution.
To do this, they used the ALMA South European Observatory in Chile. It includes dozens of radio telescopes operating in the millimeter wavelength range. By combining the collected data, scientists were able to view Psyche with a resolution of up to 30 by 30 kilometers per pixel. They report this in an article published in the Planetary Science Journal. The work is also described in a press release distributed by the California Institute of Technology.
Observations have confirmed that the surface of Psyche is composed of an unusually dense and / or electrically conductive substance. However, the amount of heat emitted by the asteroid turned out to be almost half of what was expected. According to scientists, together these findings indicate that the surface of Psyche is composed of metals at least 30 percent. And the nature of the polarization of the radiation showed that, most likely, these metals are present in the form of inclusions in rocky rocks.