NASA is gearing up for its Psyche mission to explore a metal-rich asteroid, also called Psyche that lies in the main belt between the planets Mars and Jupiter. The asteroid appears as a fuzzy blur and scientists have discovered that the celestial body is shaped like a potato and spins on its side.
By analysing the light reflected off the asteroid, scientists hypothesised that the asteroid Psyche is unusually rich in metal, says NASA. “One possible explanation is that it formed early in our solar system, either as a core of a planetesimal – a piece of a planet – or as primordial material that never melted,” read a NASA report.
This mission aims to find out, and in the process of doing so, they expect to help answer fundamental questions about the formation of our solar system.
“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,” said Arizona State University’s Lindy Elkins-Tanton, who as principal investigator leads the Psyche mission.
“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.”
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