The idea of a metallic asteroid that erupts iron may sound like an object from a science-fiction blockbuster, but according a new study, it could very much be a reality.
Researchers from Purdue University have studied the metallic asteroid Psyche, and suggest that the space rock may have erupted with iron during its formation.
Psyche appears to be composed largely of iron and nickel unlikely the rocky rubble that most asteroids are made of.
Despite this composition, Psyche is significantly less dense than it should be, leading researchers to question how it formed.
Metal-rich asteroids are thought to have formed when tiny planets collided, stripping away much of the outer material and leaving behind the inner metallic cores, which then cooled and solidified.
In the study, the researchers suggest that during this cooling prcoess, and allow of residual melted pocked of iron, nickel and sulphur may have flowed to the surface through cracks known as dikes.
Dr Brandon C. Johnson, an author of the study, explained: “We refer to these processes collectively as ‘ferrovolcanism.”
During their research, the researchers determined how deep these dikes would have to be to make volcanism possible.
Dr Johnson said: “Our calculations suggest that ferrovolcanic eruptions may be possible for small, metal-rich bodies, especially for sulfur-rich melts and bodies with mantles thinner than about 35 kilometers or bodies where the mantle has been locally thinned by large impact craters.”
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