Psyche-16 is listed as one of the most intriguing asteroids in the Solar System and has captured the imagination of scientists, astronauts and space enthusiasts for years.
Located millions of kilometers from Earth, the asteroid is believed to be composed primarily of precious metals such as nickel, gold and iron, leading to speculation about its economic value and potential to make humanity billionaires.
It was first observed in 1852 by the Italian astronomer Annibale di Casparis, who discovered that it is made of material so valuable that it is “worth 300 times the entire world economy,” according to a study published in the journal Science. The Planetary Science Journal. Also, the investigation indicates that the mysterious space rock is the largest ever recorded, measuring around 220 kilometers in diameter.
Just one detail: it’s at least 370 million kilometers from Earth, orbiting between the planets Mars and Jupiter in what’s known as the ‘planetary belt’.
A group of Chilean researchers conducted a study of the steroid at the ALMA observatory in Chile, and asserted that its “high value is mainly composed of precious metals such as iron, gold and nickel, however it may contain”. Like platinum and copper.
This is in contrast to most asteroids, which are mostly rocky and metallic. “The early Solar System was a violent place, as planetary bodies merged and then collided with each other as they settled into orbits around the Sun,” said Catherine de Kleer, lead author of the study.
“We think that fragments of the cores, mantles and crusts of these objects exist today in the form of asteroids. If that is true, this provides the only real opportunity to directly study the cores of planet-like objects.” Psyche-16 is also popularly known as the ‘Golden Asteroid’ and the iron deposited on the asteroid alone is estimated to be worth $10 trillion. In 2019, the global economy was valued at $142 trillion, according to Forbes.
NASA plans to launch the probe in 2026
Since its discovery, the asteroid has attracted the interest of researchers because space rocks with this level of metal content are generally very rare. Experts believe that this celestial body may be part of the core of an ancient planet. A team of NASA astronomers began planning the probe in 2022, and the mission is expected to be fully completed by 2026. A study of the asteroid Psych-16 could provide valuable information about the composition of other rocky planets orbiting the Solar System.
“We’ve seen other meteorites that are mostly metallic, but what’s unique about Psych-16 is that it’s made entirely of gold, iron and nickel,” said Tracy Becker, a planetary scientist on the NASA mission in 2020. “What makes Psych-16 and other asteroids so interesting is that they’re thought to be the formation rocks of the Solar System. When we get there, we’ll understand if that’s the case, and if not, that’s going to be exciting,” Becker added.