All that glitters … may be gold. At least that’s what scientists think about a shiny, Massachusetts-size asteroid that may be chock-full of precious metals.
NASA recently approved a mission to visit the metallic space rock, which orbits the sun in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. The mission — the first to a metal asteroid — could reveal secrets about our solar system’s earliest days while setting the stage for a future space mining industry.
“We think the metallic class of asteroids are the remains of ancient cores of planets,” said Jim Bell, a planetary scientist at Arizona State University in Tempe and deputy principal investigator of NASA’s Psyche mission.
Bell said the asteroid, known officially as (16) Psyche, could be the core of a nascent planet that lost its outer layers after colliding with another object billions of years ago. “That’s what we think this is — the exposed core of an ancient planetesimal from the early solar system,” he said, adding that studying Psyche up close could give scientists a better understanding of what lies at the center of our own planet.
“We can’t go visit the Earth’s core because the pressures and temperatures are too high,” he said. “The same goes for the core of Mars, the moon and other planets. But lucky for us, we think there is a core out there in the main asteroid belt that is exposed for us to view.”
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