/ Modified nov 30, 2016 5:04 p.m.

Flagstaff Scientist Detects Water on Rare Metal Asteroid

Another group of scientists wants to send a spacecraft to the asteroid, named Psyche.

Psyche metal asteroid water Artist's concept of the Psyche spacecraft, a proposed mission for NASA's Discovery program that would conduct a direct exploration of an object thought to be a stripped planetary core. (PHOTO: Courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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A rare asteroid made of metal may have water on it, planetary scientist in Flagstaff has discovered.

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, 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.

Arizona Science Desk
This story is from the Arizona Science Desk, a collaborative of the state's public radio stations, including NPR 89.1. Read more from the Arizona Science Desk.
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