What happens in the daily life of an asteroid ?
NASA has announced a first-of-its-kind mission, led by a team from Arizona State University, to explore and collect data from the asteroid 16 Psyche.
What is 16 Psyche ?
An asteroid that was discovered in 1852 and is known to be fully metallic. It has a diameter of roughly 200 km and is located within the Asteroid Belt, between Mars and Jupiter.
Why do we want to know more about this asteroid ?
16 Psyche is mostly made out of iron and nickel, two components which also form the core of our own planet. Hence learning more about 16 Psyche would help us know more about what we actually stand on.
Does Psyche or other asteroids of its kind pose any danger for us ?
Metallic asteroids can cause quite some damage in the event of an impact with Earth. As Asteroid Expert Rusty Schweickart points out: “One of the most prominent impact scars on Earth was, in fact, made by a small metallic asteroid,” referring to the Meteor Crater in Arizona. This kind of asteroids are however very rare. In fact they account for less than 10% of all the asteroids in our solar system. The probability of a metallic asteroid hitting Earth is thus very low.
When and how will we go there ?
The Psyche mission will be launching a spacecraft in 2022. It will reach 16 Psyche after a 4 year journey throughout our solar system. This spacecraft, powered by solar panels, will orbit the asteroid for 21 months, during which it will be collecting all sorts of data on this foreign object.
Stay tuned and look up, you might spot 16 Psyche crossing the sky above your heads.
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Picture from: Photo by Angelina Behler | The State Press