AO Radar Data Used to Study NASA Mission Target Asteroid (16) Psyche

Planetary Radar


A team of scientists, including AO data analyst Luisa Fernanda Zambrano-Marin and several previous AO scientists, derived the shape, features, and a global map of the asteroid.

AO Radar Data Used to Study NASA Mission Target Asteroid (16) Psyche

Michael K. Shepard, Katherine de Kleer, Saverio Cambioni, Patrick A. Taylor, Anne K. Virkki, Edgard G. Rívera-Valentin, Carolina Rodriguez Sanchez-Vahamonde, Luisa Fernanda Zambrano-Marin, Christopher Magri, David Dunham, John Moore and Maria Camarca

We develop a shape model of asteroid 16 Psyche using observations acquired in a wide range of wavelengths: Arecibo S-band delay-Doppler imaging, Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) plane-of-sky imaging, adaptive optics (AO) images from Keck and the Very Large Telescope (VLT), and a recent stellar occultation. Our shape model has dimensions 278 (−4/+8 km) × 238(−4/+6 km) × 171 km (−1/+5 km), an effective spherical diameter Deff = 222-1/+4 km, and a spin axis (ecliptic lon, lat) of (36°, −8°) ± 2°. We survey all the features previously reported to exist, tentatively identify several new features, and produce a global map of Psyche. Using 30 calibrated radar echoes, we find Psyche's overall radar albedo to be 0.34 ± 0.08 suggesting that the upper meter of regolith has a significant metal (i.e., Fe–Ni) content. We find four regions of enhanced or complex radar albedo, one of which correlates well with a previously identified feature on Psyche, and all of which appear to correlate with patches of relatively high optical albedo. Based on these findings, we cannot rule out a model of Psyche as a remnant core, but our preferred interpretation is that Psyche is a differentiated world with a regolith composition analogous to enstatite or CH/CB chondrites and peppered with localized regions of high metal concentrations. The most credible formation mechanism for these regions is ferrovolcanism as proposed by Johnson et al. (2020).
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Science Operations Associate
Luisa Fernanda Zambrano-Marin
Arecibo Observatory
787-878-2612 ext. 606

Keywords: stars: neutron, pulsars