NASA Psyche Mission to look deep into a mysterious asteroid to reveal Earth's secrets
NASA is close to Psyche mission launch, which will make a mysterious asteroid reveal the secrets of our Earth. But the truth can be stranger than fiction and that’s worrying scientists
NASA: Psyche mission is one of the most exciting things being discussed in astronomy circles. 16 Psyche is a large metal-rich asteroid which is orbiting the Sun between Mars and Jupiter. Don't worry, it is not heading towards the Earth. The excitement is building because it is so far the most unique asteroid scientists have ever seen. In fact, it is so exciting that NASA has started a project with the same name (Mission Psyche) which will send a spacecraft on the asteroid to study it. And the launch is just a few months away in August. This M-class asteroid holds a special place because researchers believe that it can reveal secrets about the Earth which were previously deemed unthinkable. Read on to find out what they are.
16 Psyche, an asteroid shrouded in mystery
16 Psyche is a one-of-a-kind asteroid. For one, it deviates from the general composition of an asteroid which is either mostly rocky or a combination or rock and ice. This space rock is made up of mostly metals with iron and nickel being the primary one's. But that's just the tip of the iceberg.
There are two classes of asteroids that we know of. One is called ‘Chondrite', which in simple terms, is an asteroid whose core has never melted and it exists in the same pristine form since its existence. On the other hand, ‘Achondrite' asteroids are broken pieces off a planet whose insides have melted. As a result, heavier elements like iron and nickel settle towards the core and lighter elements float to the surface. This phenomenon also produces magnetic fields, which is a characteristic of this type of asteroid, according to NASA. Now, what is strange about 16 Psyche is that it is believed to be a chondrite asteroid, as its core has never melted, yet it gives out magnetic fields, like an achondrite. This has confused the scientists because it is only the second asteroid we know of, which shows this behavior. The first one was the Allende meteorite which crashed into the Earth in 1969.
NASA now wants to understand whether the asteroid is chondrite, achondrite, a hybrid between both or a completely new class of asteroid we have never seen before.
NASA wants to reveal secrets of the Earth
The Psyche mission by NASA is not just interested in finding out the identity of the asteroid, however. It is primarily focused on finding out about the past of the Earth. In normal conditions, it is impossible to observe or study Earth's core due to extremely high temperature and pressure near the core. And because we have not been able to study it, we have also not been able to fully understand how Earth came to be. How? It's because the 16 Psyche asteroid is believed to be the core of an ancient shattered planet. And studying the asteroid is similar to taking a look at Earth 4.5 billion years from today. Not only the Earth but the early solar system and the origin of magnetic fields of Earth will also be studied during this mission.
The origin of magnetic fields have been another mystery that scientists have not been fully able to explain. But its role in protecting the planet from harmful radiations and letting complex life thrive has been a key for humans to emerge. If 16 Psyche gives half the answers of what is expected from this asteroid, humanity will gain immense knowledge about our blue-green planet.
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