IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis

16 Psyche

2nd November, 2020 Science and Technology

Context: A recent study has found that asteroid 16 Psyche, which orbits between Mars and Jupiter, could be made entirely of metal and is worth an estimated $10,000 quadrillion — more than the entire economy of Earth.

  • New images from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope offer a closer view of the mysterious asteroid 16 Psyche, whose surface may mostly comprise iron and nickel, similar to the Earth’s core.
  • Scientists believe that the asteroid may be the leftover core of an earlier planet that lost its crust and mantle after multiple collisions during the creation of our solar system.

What is asteroid 16 Psyche?

  • Located around 370 million kilometres away from Earth, asteroid 16 Psyche is one of the most massive objects in the asteroid belt in our solar system.
  • The somewhat potato-shaped asteroid has a diameter of around 140 miles.
  • Unlike most asteroids that are made up of rocks or ice, scientists believe that Psyche is a dense and largely metallic object thought to be the core of an earlier planet that failed in formation.


  • Metal asteroids are not commonly found in the solar system, and studying 16 Psyche may offer a rare glimpse of what the inside of a planet really looks like.
  • This asteroid is made up of almost entirely of iron, nickel and several other rare materials like gold, platinum, cobalt, iridium and rhenium.

What is known about NASA’s Psyche mission?

  • NASA plans to launch a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida to orbit the asteroid for around 21 months.
  • The unmanned spacecraft will reach the asteroid in January, 2026.
  • The first objective of the mission is to capture a photograph of the metallic asteroid, after which the spacecraft will study and map it from a distance.