On October 12, 2023, NASA will be launching a mission to an astronomical object called Psyche, which could possibly harbor the secrets to the evolution of Earth's core.
New research out of NASA's Ames Research Center in California has summarized what NASA will find when its spacecraft arrives at the solar system's second-largest metallic asteroid called Psyche. Researchers behind the study bounced different wavelengths of light off Psyche, and from the data received, were able to determine how porous the surface has, and the amount of energy it emits. This leads to the conclusion that Psyche is a metal-rich asteroid with a "fluffy" surface.
How does this relate to Earth? Researchers believe that planets such as Earth, Mars, and Mercury have metallic cores, but due to their depth, observations are extremely difficult. There is speculation that Psyche may be the core of a planet, which will assist scientists in understanding the evolution of Earth and other planet cores. Psyche is a large asteroid, with NASA writing that it would be able to cover "the distance from New York City to Baltimore, Maryland."
"Every time a new study of Psyche is published, it raises more questions," said Arredondo, who was a postdoctoral researcher at Ames on the SOFIA mission when the Psyche observations were collected. "Our findings suggest the asteroid is very complex and likely holds many other surprises. The possibility of the unexpected is one of the most exciting parts of a mission to study an unexplored body, and we look forward to gaining a more detailed understanding of Psyche's origins."
The Psyche mission is scheduled for launch on October 12, 2023, and NASA's spacecraft is expected to arrive at the asteroid in 2029 after traveling 341,478,034 miles, where it will orbit the distant object for at least 26 months.