The asteroid 16 Psyche is part of an asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, and is unique because it could be made entirely of metal, USA Today reported.
“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,” the lead author of the new study, Tracy Becker of the Southwest Research Institute, said in a statement, according to USA Today.
The metals in the asteroid could be worth around $10,000 quadrillion, according to Forbes. That’s $10,000,000,000,000,000,000.
By contrast, the entire economy of Earth was worth approximately $142 trillion in 2019.
But NASA does not have the technology to mine the asteroid, and has no plans to try to bring the metals to earth, according to USA Today.
Hubble’s ultraviolet observations are providing new, more complete views of the massive, metallic asteroid Psyche. Studying Psyche might help us learn more about the cores of planets! From @SwRI: https://t.co/tP9I58CV9G— Hubble (@NASAHubble) October 26, 2020
(Image courtesy of Maxar/ASU/P. Rubin/NASA/JPL-Caltech) pic.twitter.com/03DrkP06WW
Researchers believe that 16 Psyche could be a “protoplanet,” or the core of a planet that began to form but never succeeded, according to CBS News.
“Earth has a metal core, a mantle and crust,” said Becker, of the Southwest Research Institute, in a statement accompanying the study. “It’s possible that as a Psyche protoplanet was forming, it was struck by another object in our solar system and lost its mantle and crust.”
The asteroid was originally discovered in 1852 by Italian astronomer Annibale de Gasparis, and is approximately 230 million miles away from Earth, according to Fox News. Its 140-mile diameter makes it one of the largest objects in the asteroid belt.
NASA is currently planning a mission to visit 16 Psyche that will leave in 2022 and arrive in 2026, Fox reported. During the mission, NASA hopes to use the asteroid to study how the solar system was formed and to “see the inside of a planet.”
“What makes Psyche and the other asteroids so interesting is that they’re considered to be the building blocks of the solar system,” Becker said in the statement. “To understand what really makes up a planet and to potentially see the inside of a planet is fascinating. Once we get to Psyche, we’re really going to understand if that’s the case, even if it doesn’t turn out as we expect. Any time there’s a surprise, it’s always exciting.”