16 Psyche is an asteroid that can be found between Mars and Jupiter in the ‘Main Asteroid Belt.’ While not all asteroids are considered to be special, what makes this one unique is the fact that scientists believe that its core could be made of many minerals, including iron, nickel, and gold.
If they are correct, this would make the asteroid worth $700 quintillion.
16 Psyche was discovered by Italian astronomer Annibale de Gasparis in 1852, and it is theorized that it is the core of a shattered planetesimal or a planet-forming building block.
It’s around a 16th of the diameter of our Moon.
Lindy Elkins-Tanton, who is a lead investigator for the Psyche mission, says, “If it turns out to be part of a metal core, it would be part of the very first generation of early cores in our Solar System.”
“But we don’t really know, and we won’t know anything for sure until we get there. We wanted to ask primary questions about the material that built planets. We’re filled with questions and not a lot of answers. This is real exploration.”
Currently, there have been no missions to 16 Psyche and the asteroid is very difficult to study from a distance. When peering through telescopes here on Earth, the asteroid looks like a fuzzy blob to astronomers. However, they do know that it’s shaped roughly like a potato and that it spins on its side.
In June of 2021, scientists from the University of Arizona studied the object and found it to be around 82.5% metal. The conclusion of their findings shows that contrary to previous thoughts and theories, the asteroid is a bit less metallic and more porous than previous studies have shown.
Regardless, the massive estimate of the object still stands, but as more studies are done, and finally, a mission to the asteroid launches later on (as early as August of 2022) we could see those estimates go down a bit.
As it stands, the asteroid is estimated to be worth more than the entire economy of our planet. Which is pretty amazing if you think about it.
However, no matter what the true price of the object, to astronomers, Psyche 16 is priceless.