Asteroid 16 Psyche, as it is called, is possibly the remainder of a planetary core that never properly formed into an actual planet. While most asteroids are made of stone or ice, the incredibly dense psyche is mostly metal and about 140 miles in diameter, making it the size of Massachusetts.
The new study by the Planetary Science Journal found that psyche may be composed of iron and nickel, which are typically found in the cores of planets.
“We have seen meteorites made mostly of metal, but Psyche may be unique in that it is an asteroid made entirely of iron and nickel,” said lead study author Dr. Tracy Becker in a statement. “The earth has a metal core, a mantle and a crust. It is possible that when a psyche protoplanet was forming, it was hit by another object in our solar system and lost its mantle and crust. ”
NASA plans to launch an unmanned spacecraft called Psyche on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket in 2022 to reach the asteroid and study its composition and history. This is the first time NASA has reached a body made entirely of metal. The spaceship will hit the psyche in January 2026.
Back in 2017, researchers told CBS News that they would not use the asteroid’s $ 10,000 trillion metal mass for business profits.
“What makes Psyche and the other asteroids so interesting is that they are seen as the building blocks of the solar system,” said Becker. “It’s fascinating to understand what really makes a planet and possibly see the inside of a planet.” Once we get to Psyche, we will truly understand whether this is the case, even if it is not what we are expect. Whenever there is a surprise, it is always exciting. ”
If you like weird and wild science stories head over to IGN’s science news hub. A rogue planet swimming through the Milky Way was also recently discovered. In addition, scientists discovered that the amusingly named “Black Widow Star” is the source of the gamma rays that give Hulk his superpowers.
Oh, and the moon is wet.
Joseph Knoop is a writer / reporter / floating crowd for IGN. Keep it circulating on Twitter.
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