Researchers have discovered the presence of water on Psyche, which happens to be the largest metallic asteroid of our solar system. The discovery will have a significant impact in forwarding the theory that water was brought to Earth by asteroids. The asteroid is also a target of a NASA mission in the future. An earlier observation of Psyche had shown no presence of water-abundant minerals on its surface.
Latest observation by the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility in Hawaii shows the presence of water or Hydroxyl on its surface. The presence of these molecules remains a mystery, but scientists have proposed some possible mechanism of its formation.
One reason for the existence of water-abundant minerals on the metallic asteroid which consists primarily of Iron and nickel could be carbonaceous asteroids that impacted Psyche in the distant past. It is located in the asteroid belt and could be the core of a budding planet which was destroyed by a catastrophic impact or impacts billions of years ago. The asteroid is 186 miles long and composed almost entirely of pure nickel/iron metal. The latest study was published in the Astronomical Journal under the offices of US Geological Survey and NASA.
A mission to the asteroid was suggested in 2014, and a robotic Psyche orbiter was proposed by a team led by Lindy Elkins-Tanton. The importance of the study of the asteroid is even more important because it is the only metallic core like body which has been discovered to date. The study is even more important because shortly, the resources on Earth will be finished and humanity will have to look for extraterrestrial sources. Asteroids like Psyche will be a valuable source of minerals and rare earth if a viable commercial process of mining them could be developed.