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Exploring Psyche, the Metal World

16 Feb 2020, 17:57 UTC
Exploring Psyche, the Metal World
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In just over two years, NASA will launch a probe to Psyche, an asteroid often dubbed as a “metal world”. Instead of being made mostly of ice, this asteroid’s composition is rocky-metallic. Why is it so important to study such a place? In short, the planet you stand on is made of the same materials.

Long ago, in the earliest epochs of the solar system, little bits of metallic rock like Psyche collided to form bigger worlds. These planetesimals are the building blocks of Earth, Venus, Mercury, Mars, and probably the cores of the giant planets. So, looking at this asteroid is like looking at the pieces that formed our planet.

About Psyche

An artist concept of the Psyche orbiter studying asteroid 16 Psyche during one of its orbits. Courtesy Psyche Mission/NASA.

Psyche was discovered in 1852 by Annibale de Gasparis. Its full official name is 16 Psyche, and it’s one of the ten most massive asteroids known in the solar system. It’s small, but it more than makes up for that with its interesting makeup. Psyche is very massive and has about 1 percent of the mass of the Asteroid Belt tied up in its 200-kilometer-wise ...

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