January 28, 2022

Psyche 16- The asteroid worth 10 Quadrillion Dollars


If you`ve ever watched those movies about space miners flying through space to a unknown part of space and going to a asteroid and finding riches that would make the US GDP look like pocket change then you should start updating your resume for a chance to get to the big money ball in the sky, Psyche 16.

You’re going to hear a lot more about this 140 miles/226 kilometers wide asteroid in the next few months as NASA gets closer to launching a mission of the same name, in August 2022, to study what it’s made of.

Iron? Nickel? Gold? Observations of the light reflected off it suggest one of those, which would—some casual suggestions predict—make this asteroid technically worth about $10,000 quadrillion! Thats worth more then Elon Musk,Bill Gates and Apple combined and it still wouldn’t be enough to match. That’s way more than the global economy, which was worth about $84.5 trillion in 2020 according to Statistics.
Whatever its perceived value, the metal-rich 16 Psyche is a celestial oddity. It exists within the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. It’s three times farther away from the Sun than is the Earth and it takes five years to orbit the Sun. It was first discovered by 1852.
It’s a sixteenth the diameter of our Moon but arguably more intriguing. 16 Psyche is thought to be the exposed metallic iron, nickel and gold core of a protoplanet. Most asteroids are rocky or icy. It could also be primordial material that never melted.

Multiple views of 16 Psyche imaged by the Very Large Telescope
Images of Psyche from the HARISSA survey

“If it turns out to be part of a metal core, it would be part of the very first generation of early cores in our Solar System,” said Arizona State University’s Lindy Elkins-Tanton, who as principal investigator leads the Psyche mission. “But we don’t really know, and we won’t know anything for sure until we get there. We wanted to ask primary questions about the material that built planets. We’re filled with questions and not a lot of answers. This is real exploration.”

No mission has ever visited 16 Psyche and it’s almost impossible to study from afar. Though Earth-based telescopes the asteroid appears as a fuzzy blur. The Hubble Space Telescope can’t discern much detail either. However, from radar data scientists do know that it’s shaped like a potato. And that it spins on its side.

NASA’s mission will have an orbiter spend at least 21 months mapping and studying the asteroid’s properties from 435 miles/700 kilometers above the asteroid’s surface. On board is a payload suite that includes a magnetometer to measure any magnetic field as well as images to photograph and map the surface. Meanwhile, spectrometers will indicate what the surface is made of by measuring the gamma rays and neutrons emitted from it.

NASA’s Psyche mission is part of its Discovery Program of low-cost robotic space missions. The Psyche orbiter is set to launch in August 2022, swing by Mars nine months later for a gravity assist and finally arrive at the asteroid in January 2026.

“We don’t know what we’re going to find,” said Elkins-Tanton. “I’m expecting us to be entirely surprised.”
Whatever the case sign me up for some deep space exploration.

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