Flagstaff Scientist Detects Water on Rare Metal Asteroid

Nov 30, 2016

A rare asteroid made of metal may have water on it. From the Arizona Science Desk, Melissa Sevigny reports the discovery was made by a planetary scientist in Flagstaff.

Mission concept for a spacecraft to Psyche
Credit NASA/JPL-Caltech

The asteroid is called Psyche and until now it was thought to be dry. But new evidence suggests there’s water there, bound up in rock.

That’s according to Driss Takir, a scientist at the U.S. Geological Survey. His team observed the asteroid from a telescope in Hawaii and saw a spectral signature consistent with water.

Psyche is made of nickel and iron and could be the core of a destroyed planet. It’s located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. The research team thinks it may have picked up water from violent collisions with other asteroids.

A separate team of scientists at Arizona State University has proposed a spacecraft mission to Psyche for further exploration. If NASA funds the project, it would be the first mission to a metal asteroid.