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Dynamical Environment and Surface Characteristics of Asteroid (16) Psyche

Published onAug 03, 2020
Dynamical Environment and Surface Characteristics of Asteroid (16) Psyche

16 Psyche is an asteroid located in the main belt. It has a diameter of approximately 230 km, in addition to being considered the most massive among the M-type asteroids. This fact makes Psyche a unique object, since observations indicated an iron-nickel composition. It is believed that this body may be what was left of a metal core of an early planet that would have been fragmented over millions of years due to violent collisions. The Psyche space mission, selected by NASA, aims to study the origin of planetary nuclei based on the exploration of the asteroid 16 Psyche. The launch of the mission is scheduled for 2022 and, after a 4-year journey, will explore the target for about 21 months. In the present work is studied a variety of dynamical aspects related to the surface, as well as, the environment around this asteroid. In our studies was adopted the shape of the asteroid determined by radar observations. The shape is given by a polyhedron of 2292 triangular faces and 1148 vertices. Assuming constant values for its density and rotational period, we used computational tools to explore the gravitational field generated by this asteroid. It was determined a set of physical and dynamical characteristics over the whole surface of the asteroid. Among them were computed the altitude, tilt, slope, potential height, potential speed and escape speed. In order to explore the neighborhood close to asteroid 16 Psyche, the location and linear stability of the equilibrium points were found. The system has four external equilibrium points and an internal one. Two of the external points are unstable and the other two linearly stable. A set of numerical simulations of massless particles around the asteroid confirmed the stability of these points, and also showed anasymmetry in the size of the stable regions. In addition, we integrate a cloud of particles in the vicinity of (16) Psyche in order to verify in which regions of its surface the particles are most likely to collide.

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