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NASA Finds Rare Metal Asteroid and It's Worth $10,000 Quadrillion

The asteroid, 16 Psyche, lies in our Solar System's main asteroid belt.

NASA Finds Rare Metal Asteroid and It's Worth $10,000 Quadrillion
Artist's concept of Lucy spacecraft Peter Rubin/NASA/SwRI and SSL

NASA's Hubble Telescope discovered an asteroid made up almost entirely of rare metals, and it's worth a lot. Think, $10,000 quadrillion

"16 Psyche," as the asteroid is called, is in our Solar System's asteroid belt, tucked neatly between Mars and Jupiter. It sits roughly 230 million miles (370 million kilometers) away from Earth, and is 14 miles wide (226 kilometers)

What's fascinating about 16 Psyche is that it's almost completely made up of rare metals, and it isn't rocky or icy like other asteroids, per the Observer's report.

A study on the findings was published on Monday in the Planetary Science Journal.

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A rich asteroid of iron and nickel

"We’ve seen meteorites that are mostly metal, but Psyche could be unique in that it might be an asteroid that is totally made of iron and nickel," said Tracy Becker, one of the study’s authors and planetary scientist at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas.

If you take into account the size of the asteroid and its metal makeup, its total value could be worth about $10,000 quadrillion. That's $10,000,000,000,000,000,000. We really just wanted to see how many zeros that would take.

That's approximately 10,000 times the global economy as of 2019, per the Observer.

These dizzying figures are but the tip of the iceberg in what is sure to be an extremely exciting journey to 16 Psyche. 

NASA Finds Rare Metal Asteroid and It's Worth $10,000 Quadrillion
Psyche asteroid. Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU

NASA's mission, NASA Discovery Mission Psyche, is due to launch in 2022 thanks to SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket. More information about the asteroid and its metal content is set to be gathered on the mission. 

Such a mission helps NASA scientists better understand our own planet, as well as our Solar System. 

Psyche's makeup was first uncovered in 2017 thanks to NASA's Hubble Telescope, which at the time thought the asteroid was primarily made up of pure iron. After further observation, it's now also believed to consist of nickel as well. 

"16 Psyche is the only known object of its kind in the Solar System, and this is the only way humans will ever visit a core. We learn about inner space by visiting outer space," explained Lindy Elkins-Tanton, lead scientist on the NASA mission and the director of Arizona State University’s School of Earth and Space Exploration, in a statement announcing the mission in January 2017.

Once further information is gathered about 16 Psyche, what will asteroid mining bring to us on Earth? $10,000 quadrillion?

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