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28-10-2020, 15:26   #1
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rare iron asteroid discovered

could be the core of whatever smashed up in the asteroid belt


NASA Discovers a Rare Metal Asteroid That’s Worth $10,000,000,000,000,000,000

By Sissi Cao • 10/27/20 12:34pm

An artist’s rendering of NASA’s Psyche spacecraft. Arizona State University

Forget water on the moon, NASA has now struck gold.
NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has discovered a rare, heavy and immensely valuable asteroid called “16 Psyche” in the Solar System’s main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
Asteroid Psyche is located at roughly 230 million miles (370 million kilometers) from Earth and measures 14 miles (226 kilometers) across, about the size of West Virginia. What makes it special is that, unlike most asteroids that are either rocky or icy, Psyche is made almost entirely of metals, just like the core of Earth, according to a study published in the Planetary Science Journal on Monday.
“We’ve seen meteorites that are mostly metal, but Psyche could be unique in that it might be an asteroid that is totally made of iron and nickel,” said Tracy Becker, one of the study’s authors and a planetary scientist at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas.
Given the asteroid’s size, its metal content could be worth $10,000 quadrillion ($10,000,000,000,000,000,000), or about 10,000 times the global economy as of 2019.
See Also: Space Cold War Looms as NASA Ends Russian Flights, Putin Skips Moon Treaty
Using ultraviolet spectrum data collected by the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph on the Hubble Space Telescope during two observations in 2017, researchers deduced that Psyche’s surface could be mostly pure iron. However, they recognized that the presence of an iron composition of as small as 10 percent could dominate ultraviolet observations.
Psyche is the target of the NASA Discovery Mission Psyche, expected to launch in 2022 atop a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket. Further facts about the asteroid, including its exact metal content, will hopefully be uncovered when an orbiting probe arrives in early 2026.
“16 Psyche is the only known object of its kind in the Solar System, and this is the only way humans will ever visit a core. We learn about inner space by visiting outer space,” Lindy Elkins-Tanton, the lead scientist on the NASA mission and the director of Arizona State University’s School of Earth and Space Exploration, said in a statement announcing the mission in January 2017.
The asteroid is believed to be the dead core left by a planet that failed during its formation early in the Solar System’s life or the result of many violent collisions in its distant past.
“Short of it being the Death Star… one other possibility is that it’s material that formed very near the Sun early in the Solar System,” Elkins-Tanton told Forbes in an interview in May, 2017 interview. “I figure we’re either going to go see something that’s really improbable and unique, or something that is completely astonishing.”
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29-10-2020, 02:11   #2
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I wish the media would stop making up stupid, meaningless figures like the $10,000 quadrillion value. For a start it means they're valuing it at roughly the price of finished crude steel coming out of a factory. Secondly, the mass of Psyche is about 10 million years worth of current global crude steel production. That might cause a bit of a glut. And thirdly, if they stopped to think about the cost of ferrying a kilogram of iron from Psyche to Earth, the value would probably be a large negative number.

The science story is fascinating enough without the clickbait headlines. Unfortunately they made a mess of that too. 16 Psyche wasn't discovered by the Hubble Space Telescope. The clue is in the name. It was the 16th asteroid ever discovered, way back in 1852. And even decent mass estimates are 20 years old. It's also not made of pure iron and nickel as it's only half the density of iron.

Still an impressive object though. It's 1% of the mass of the entire asteroid belt and could well be a failed planet core. It's a reminder of the role of Jupiter in stirring things up beyond the orbit of Mars, and that gravity doesn't just "suck" but can be a subtle and chaotic force.

Last edited by ps200306; 29-10-2020 at 15:35.
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