Psyche 16 is one of the most massive asteroids in the asteroid belt. This object is over 200 km in diameter and contains about 1% of the mass of the entire asteroid belt. It is thought to be the exposed iron core of a protoplanet, and is the most massive metallic M-type asteroid.
One of the most intriguing targets in the main asteroid belt, 16 Psyche is a giant metal asteroid, about three times farther away from the sun than is the Earth. Its average diameter is about 140 miles (226 kilometers) — about one-sixteenth the diameter of Earth’s Moon or about the distance between Los Angeles and San Diego.
Unlike most other asteroids that are rocky or icy bodies, scientists think the M-type (metallic) asteroid 16 Psyche is comprised mostly of metallic iron and nickel similar to Earth’s core. Scientists wonder whether Psyche could be an exposed core of an early planet, maybe as large as Mars, that lost its rocky outer layers due to a number of violent collisions billions of years ago.
Astronomers on Earth have studied 16 Psyche in visible and infrared wavelengths, as well as radar, which suggest Psyche is shaped somewhat like a potato. Observations indicate that its dimensions are 173 miles by 144 miles, by 117 miles (that’s 279, 232 and 189 kilometers, respectively). Psyche orbits the Sun between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter at a distance ranging from 235 million to 309 million miles (378 million to 497 million kilometers) from the Sun. That’s 2.5 to 3.3 Astronomical Units (AU), with 1 AU being the distance between Earth and the Sun. Psyche takes about five Earth years to complete one orbit of the Sun, but only a bit over four hours to rotate once on its axis (a Psyche “day”).
We may be on the brink of a new gold rush, but not here on Earth. An asteroid made entirely of metal is the subject of a future NASA mission that may allow us to understand more about the Earth’s core and how planets formed. 16 Psyche is a massive asteroid that is particularly interesting due to its metallic composition, which has caused some people to speculate about its potential value.
In fact, due to all the metal it contains, some are reporting that it could be worth up to $700 quintillion, that could be 93$ billion for every persone on Earth. While there’s been speculation about how much gold there is to be found, scientists feel that 16 Psyche is mainly made from iron and nickel. This would make its composition similar to the Earth’s core. For this reason, it’s believed that the giant asteroid may actually be the exposed core of an early planet that lost its rocky outer layers.