The scientists from the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory (UALPL) found out that largest metallic asteroid in the solar system may have water on its surface. According to the NASA’s date, the asteroid, called 16 Psyche, may have water on its surface. The new research, co-authored by Reddy and led by Driss Takir at the U.S. Geological Survey, has been accepted to the Astronomical Journal.
The researchers suggest that the 300 kilometres body, made of almost pure nickel-iron, might be the core of a world whose outer layers were blasted off by impacts billions of years ago. This hypothesis based on the data from previous observations of Psyche, which didn’t show the presence of water. The recent data from NASA brings new version: Infrared Telescope Facility show evidence for water on Psyche’s surface.
Water or hydroxyl both exist on Earth, but it is very reactive and tends to combine with other compounds — and in fact can remove those compounds from the air, explain the astronomers. Reddy said:
«We did not expect a metallic asteroid like Psyche to be covered by water and/or hydroxyl. Metal-rich asteroids like Psyche are thought to have formed under dry conditions without the presence of water or hydroxyl, so we were puzzled by our observations at first.»
Probably, the water could have resulted by the reaching Psyche smaller asteroids, which contained volatiles such as carbon, hydrogen and water, astronomers suggest. Meanwhile, NASA is currently reviewing a proposed mission to Psyche, which could clear whether the signal from the surface comes from water or hydroxyl.