The Asteroid Psyche

The Asteroid Psyche


Psyche is a giant metal-rich asteroid that contains large amounts of gold, platinum, iron, and nickel. If it is brought on Earth, it can make everyone a billionaire. Its worth is calculated at $10 quintillion.


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The Asteroid Psyche

In 2022, NASA will launch a mission to the asteroid known as 16 Psyche. It’s our first mission to a world that isn’t primarily rocky or icy, but instead metallic. Scientists have said Psyche might be the exposed metal core of an early planet that failed to form. They’ve estimated its worth at $10,000 quadrillion. Now a new study suggests something else. On June 9, 2021, scientists at the University of Arizona announced the results of a new study, suggesting asteroid Psyche might not be as expected. It might not be as metallic or as dense as scientists once thought. Instead, these scientists said: Rather than being an intact exposed core of an early planet, it might actually be closer to a rubble pile.

The peer-reviewed Planetary Science Journal study has published this study on May 12, 2021. The study – led by David Cantillo of the University of Arizona – found that Psyche is 82.5% metal, 7% low-iron pyroxene (rock-forming minerals), and 10.5% carbonaceous chondrite (stony). Its bulk density, or porosity, is around 35%. These numbers mark Psyche as less metallic and more porous than previous studies. Previous estimates had Psyche at as much as 95% metal and significantly less dense. Cantillo commented in a statement: That drop in metallic content and bulk density is interesting because it shows that 16 Psyche is more modified than previously thought.

The new estimates point to Psyche being a “rubble pile” instead of a failed planetary core. A rubble-pile composition would make Psyche more similar to other asteroids in our solar system, such as the recently visited asteroid Bennu. Cantillo said: Psyche as a rubble pile would be very unexpected, but our data continues to show low-density estimates despite its high metallic content … Having a lower metallic content than once thought means that the asteroid could have been exposed to collisions with asteroids containing the more common carbonaceous chondrites, which deposited a surface layer that we are observing.


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