HST UV observations of asteroid (16) psyche

Tracy M. Becker, Nathaniel Cunningham, Philippa Molyneux, Lorenz Roth, Lori M. Feaga, Kurt D. Retherford, Zoe A. Landsman, Emma Peavler, Linda T. Elkins-Tanton, Jan Erik Walhund

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


The Main Belt Asteroid (16) Psyche is the target object of the NASA Discovery Mission Psyche. We observed the asteroid at ultraviolet (UV) wavelengths (170-310 nm) using the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph on the Hubble Space Telescope during two separate observations. We report that the spectrum is very red in the UV, with a blue upturn shortward of ~200 nm. We find an absorption feature at 250 nm and a weaker absorption feature at 275 nm that may be attributed to a metal-oxide charge transfer band. We find that the red-sloped, relatively featureless spectrum of (16) Psyche is best matched with the reflectance spectrum of pure iron; however, our intimate mixture models show that small grains of iron may dominate the reflectance spectrum even if iron only comprises up to 10% of the material on the surface. We also stress that there is a limited database of reflectances for planetary surface analogs at UV wavelengths for comparison with the spectrum of (16) Psyche. The mid- and far- UV spectra (<240 nm) are markedly different for each of the four asteroids observed at these wavelengths so far, including ones in the same spectral class, indicating that UV observations of asteroids could be used to better understand differences in the composition and processing of the surfaces of these small bodies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number53
JournalPlanetary Science Journal
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Geophysics


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