NASA prepares to visit the strange metal bulge 150 miles wide that surrounds the inner solar system



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Three times farther from the sun than the Earth lies a huge piece of metal. About 252 kilometers [157 miles] in diameter, the metallic "Clbad M" 16 Psyche asteroid is the target of NASA's next mission to the giant rock belt that surrounds the inner solar system. And the space agency now plans to visit it much earlier than originally planned.

The launch not only went ahead one year until the summer of 2022, but NASA scientists also found a way to get to Psyche (pronounced SYKe-ee) much faster by taking a more efficient path. The new route means that the Psyche spacecraft will not have to swing around the Earth to increase speed and will not pbad so close to the Sun, so it needs less protection from heat. Now it must arrive in 2026, four years before the original timeline.

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The main goal of the trip to Psyche is to collect more information about our own solar system. Psyche is one of the many wandering members of the asteroid belt. Unlike the rest of its rocky neighbors, Psyche seems to be made entirely of nickel and iron, just like the core of the Earth. This, along with its size, has led to the theory that they could be the remains of the interior of a planet.

Asteroids are made up of primitive materials, remains of the cloud of dust from which our solar system originated. The different types of asteroids resemble the various steps it took to form planets from this cloud of dust. This means that they reveal a lot about the origin and evolution of our solar system. Scientists think that Psyche could be what remains of an exposed metallic core of a planet very similar to Earth.

In fact, we derive much of our knowledge about asteroids and the evolution of the planets from the study of meteorites. Many asteroids and comets are primitive protoplanetary bodies accumulated from the same cloud of dust from which our solar system originates. As these protoplanetary bodies collide, gravity gathers them into larger and larger bodies. Eventually, these bodies become large enough and hot enough to partially melt, allowing heavy materials such as iron to sink into the core and lighter materials such as silicon to rise to the surface.

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<p clbad = "canvas-atom canvas-text Mb (1.0em) Mb (0) – sm Mt (0.8em) – sm" type = "text" content = " An artist depicting the planned spacecraft approaching the asteroid Psyche. NASA / JPL-Caltech / Arizona State Univ./Space Systems Loral / Peter Rubin " data-react = "38"> Representation of an artist of the planned spacecraft approaching the asteroid Psyche. NASA / JPL-Caltech / Arizona State Univ./Space Systems Loral / Peter Rubin

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This process, known as differentiation, explains why Earth and other planets like Mercury, Venus or Mars have a core of iron and silicon Rich mantle and bark. It is believed that the asteroid 16 Psyche is the iron core left over from a planet stripped of its mantle in a giant collision.

But many questions remain regarding the formation of Psyche. How do you strip a planet of its mantle only from the core? Maybe there is an alternative mechanism of forming a body rich in iron that does not involve differentiation? Psyche may have been once fused and, if so, did it cool from within or from its surface to the core?

In addition, the Earth's magnetic field comes from a liquid outer core that revolves around a solid internal core. Did these processes occur in Psyche and create a magnetic field? What elements besides iron accumulate in a nucleus? And what does the surface geology of an iron body look like compared to a rocky or frozen body?

Avoiding collisions

There are other reasons to visit the asteroids. On the one hand, possible collisions with the Earth can have devastating effects. The impact of an asteroid 15 kilometers [9 mile] wide approximately 65 million years ago is related to the extinction of dinosaurs. And the explosion of the asteroid Chelyabinsk of 30 meters [98 feet] in diameter on Russia in 2013 caused injuries and damage to the terrain. We need to know as much as possible about the composition and physical composition of asteroids to devise the best ways to defend our planet.

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