Understanding Asteroid 16 Psyche's composition through 3D impact crater modeling

Wendy K. Caldwell, Abigail Hunter, Catherine S. Plesko, Stephen Wirkus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Asteroid 16 Psyche is the largest M-type (metallic) Main Belt Asteroid (MBA). Radar albedo data indicate Psyche's surface is rich in metallic content, but estimates for Psyche's bulk structure vary widely, with bulk density estimates ranging from 1.4 ± 0.3 g/cm3 to 4.5 ± 1.4 g/cm3 and porosity estimates ranging from 30% to 70%. A forthcoming NASA discovery mission will visit Psyche. Narrowing the range of estimated compositions of Psyche prior to mission launch can help to determine the necessary tools for asteroid analysis. Psyche has two large impact structures in its Southern hemisphere, with estimated diameters from 50 km to 70 km and estimated depths up to 6.4 km. In this work, we present results from 2D and 3D hydrocode simulations of the largest of these impact structures. Through quantitative comparison of the simulated crater dimensions with measured values, our models suggest that Psyche is largely composed of porous, metallic material. In addition, to match the crater dimensions, our simulations indicate that the angle of impact was significantly altered from vertical by 45–60 degrees.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number113962
StatePublished - Nov 15 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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