A new study by the Hubble Space Telescope has revealed a clearer picture than ever before of one of the most intriguing and most valuable asteroids we know of.
It’s also one that NASA is planning to visit in 2026.
Here’s everything you need to know about “16 Psyche.”
What and where is ‘16 Psyche?’
About 230 million miles/370 million kilometers from Earth, Psyche—as it’s commonly known—is one of the most massive objects in the Solar System’s main asteroid belt orbiting between Mars and Jupiter.
It’s about 140 miles/226 kilometers-wide and—unlike most asteroids, which are rocky or icy—Psyche appears to be metallic.
In fact, it’s so dense and metallic that Psyche is thought to be the leftover core of a planet that failed during its formation—a “protoplanet.”
What is ‘16 Psyche’ made of?
“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 Dr. Tracy Becker, a planetary scientist at the Southwest Research Institute in in San Antonio, Texas, and author of the new paper published in the Planetary Science Journal this week.
UC Berkeley Space Sciences Lab is contributing two power supplies for the Psyche Mission to study the asteroid