A NASA robotic mission to a metal world, scheduled to launch on October 5, 2023, and reach its destination in 2029, could shed light on many of the mysteries surrounding our planet’s inner dynamics. The world in question is an asteroid and is called Psyche, just like the ship that will explore it. About 20% of the asteroids are metal worlds and are similar in composition to the Earth’s core.
NASA will complete the launch this year Psyche MissionThe aim is to unravel the secrets of the metallic asteroid of the same name, which has a diameter of 226 kilometers and is located 370 million kilometers from Earth. According to astronomers, Psyche would be one of the asteroids traveling through the solar system and making up Fragments of ancient planetary cores. In this way, they are a great opportunity to learn more about the heart of our planet and other worlds.
Planetary cores wander through the cosmos
We don’t know much about the earth’s core, considering that the enormous pressure and temperature of 5,537 degrees Celsius that prevail in the center of our planet make any kind of direct observation impossible. However, analysis of seismic waves has enabled some advances: geophysicists discovered that the core consists of a solid sphere of iron and nickel, accounting for 20% of the Earth’s radius, surrounded by another layer of molten iron and nickel, accounting for another 15% of the earth’s radius.
Now, outer space could hold the key to a deeper understanding of the properties of Earth’s inner core and other similar structures found at the centers of other planets. According to an article published in The Conversation by scientist Jim Bell, who is part of the Psyche mission team, asteroids are small worlds that make up the “leftover” building blocks from the violent time of the formation of our solar system, when collisions and impacts between bodies were commonplace.
It is assumed that about 20% of asteroids are metal worlds similar in composition to the core of the Earth. Therefore, scientists believe these metallic asteroids are splintered fragments of the cores of once-existing planets, torn apart by ancient cosmic collisions. By analyzing these pieces, researchers could directly study what a planetary core looks like, which is impossible on Earth.
An artistic interpretation of Psyche, an incredible metallic world. Photo credit: NASA/YouTube.
Psyche, a key to learning more about the interior of the planets
The robot probe psyche The launch will take place on October 5 this year aboard a Falcon Heavy rocket. After an extended journey, it will enter orbit the asteroid in August 2029. It will orbit it repeatedly and systematically, starting at a distance of 700 kilometers and ending at a distance of just 75 kilometers from the surface.
The mission, scientifically managed by Arizona State University on behalf of NASA, lasts 26 months of geological, topographic, and gravitational mapping of the asteroid, looking for evidence of a magnetic field. The scientists then compare the composition of the psyche with the knowledge gained so far about the earth’s core.
According to experts, these efforts will answer several questions. First, to determine whether Psyche is one exposed planetary core And whether there is evidence that the outer layers of this small world, the crust and mantle, were violently torn away long ago, in the early days of the solar system. Using this data, researchers can determine if it’s possible to extrapolate what we learn about the psyche to try to solve some of the mysteries at the core of our planet.