A giant metallic asteroid worth approximately $10,000,000,000,000,000,000 — more than the entire Earth’s economy — is orbiting around Mars and Jupiter, according to a new report from the Planetary Science Journal via CBS News.
Asteroid 16 Psyche, as it’s known, is thought to possibly be the remnant of a planet core that never properly formed into an actual planet. While most asteroids are made of rock or ice, the incredibly dense Psyche is made mostly of metal, and measures about 140 miles in diameter, making it the size of Massachusetts.
The Planetary Science Journal’s new study has found that Psyche may be composed of iron and nickel, which are typically found in the cores of planets.
“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,” lead study author Dr. Tracy Becker said in a statement. “Earth has a metal core, a mantle and crust. 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.”
Cosmos: Possible Worlds Gallery
NASA plans to launch an unmanned spacecraft in 2022, also named Psyche, on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket to reach the asteroid and study its composition and history. This will make it the first time NASA has ever reached a body composed entirely of metal. The spacecraft will reach Psyche in January 2026.
Back in 2017, researchers also told CBS News that they would not be utilizing the asteroid’s $10,000 quadrillion metallic mass for any business gain.
“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. “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.”
NASA Black Hole Gallery
If you like weird and wild science stories, check out IGN’s science news hub. A rogue planet floating through the Milky Way was also recently discovered. Scientists have also discovered that the amusingly named “Black Widow Star” is the source of gamma radiation that gives Hulk his superpowers.
Also, the Moon is wet.
Joseph Knoop is a writer/reporter/floating mass for IGN. Orbit him on Twitter.