NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope discovered a rare and highly valuable asteroid called ’16 Psyche’. The asteroid is located in our solar system’s asteroid belt between the planets of Mars and Jupiter.
According to a research published on Monday on the Planetary Science Journal, asteroid ’16 Psyche’ is located roughly 370 million kilometres from the Earth and measures 226 kilometres across which is roughly about the size of West Virginia.
However, the most interesting feature about the asteroid is not its size but its make. Unlike other asteroids which are made up of either rocks or ice, Psyche is almost entirely made of metals.
Tracy Becker, one of the study’s authors and a planetary scientist at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio in Texas, said that they usually find meteorites that have metal deposits, but Psyche is unique, as the asteroid could be entirely made of iron and nickel.
Given its size and presence of metal deposits, it could be worth a whopping US$ 10,000,000,000,000,000,000 (US$ 10,000 quadrillion), which is equivalent to ten thousand times the global economy in 2019.
Researchers used the ultraviolet spectrum data collected by the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph on the Hubble Telescope during two observations made in 2017.
Relying on the data, they deduced that Psyche’s surface could be pure iron. However, they also recognised that presence of iron composition as small as 10 percent could dominate ultraviolet reports. Psyche is believed to be the dead core of a planet that might have failed during its formative stages or it could also be the result of many violent space collisions.
NASA has already targeted the exploration of asteroid Psyche with the launch of NASA Discovery Mission Psyche, which is expected to be launched in 2022. The Psyche space probe will be sent atop a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket and will reach the asteroid by 2026, and hopefully uncover its exact metal content and other facets.