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Scientists discovered asteroid worth $100,000 quadrillion: What makes it unique

Scientists discovered asteroid worth $100,000 quadrillion: What makes it unique Asteroid 16 Psyche - a real "golden vein" (collage: RBC-Ukraine)

The value of the unique asteroid known as 16 Psyche is estimated to be around $100 quadrillion – more than all the money in the world. Some scientists and companies are already considering the possibility of building mines on it to extract incredibly valuable and rare elements.

RBC-Ukraine reports on what is known about this asteroid – its discovery, research, and the likelihood of developing mines for the extraction of precious materials.

The following sources were used in preparing the material: ScienceNASA, Live Science, RankRed.

Who and when discovered the unique asteroid

The prominent Italian astronomer Annibale de Gasparis discovered the asteroid 16 Psyche on March 17, 1852.

The number in its name indicates that it was the 16th asteroid discovered by humanity.

The name itself is associated with the queen Psyche - a character from ancient Greek and Roman mythology - a magical and incredibly beautiful girl with butterfly wings, considered the embodiment of the human soul.

According to legends, she was born mortal, but later married Eros (the Roman Cupid), the god of love.

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Asteroid 16 Psyche (screenshot:

What NASA learned about Psyche

Psyche is a gigantic, dense, and metal-rich asteroid that orbits the Sun.

It is one of the most interesting objects in the outer part of the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter and is located roughly three times farther from the Sun than Earth.

Since Psyche and Earth rotate at different speeds, the distance from our planet to the asteroid fluctuates from about 299 million kilometers to over 598 million kilometers.

This celestial body rotates around its own axis in about 4 hours, while around the Sun, it takes about 5 years.

The area of Psyche is approximately 165,800 square kilometers, and its dimensions in the "horizontal cross-section of a flattened oval" can be:

  • Approximately 280 km at its widest point
  • Approximately 232 km in length

By rough estimates, the density of the asteroid may be around 3.4-4.1 thousand kilograms per cubic meter.

Surface gravity on Psyche, according to scientists, is much lower than on Earth. Some speculate that lifting a car on this asteroid would be as "difficult" as lifting a large dog on the surface of our planet.

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Artistic rendering of a spacecraft in orbit around 16 Psyche (illustration:

Basis of the value of an asteroid

According to researchers, Psyche may consist of a significant amount of metal from the core of a protoplanet - one of the "building blocks" of our Solar System.

Scientists also believe that this asteroid has experienced numerous and powerful collisions, which were common during the formation of the Solar System.

Despite discrepancies in scientific data, their analysis shows that Psyche is most likely composed of a mixture of rock and metal. The metal comprises between 30% and 60% of the asteroid's volume.

These data were obtained by means of radar observations and measurements of thermal inertia (how quickly an object absorbs or re-radiates heat).

Combining radar and optical observations, scientists have created a 3D model of Psyche, which demonstrates, among other things, two crater-like depressions. This indicates a significant variation in the metal content and color on the asteroid's surface.

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The likely appearance of Psyche (Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU)

Experts speculate that the asteroid is literally a "gold mine" as it may consist of iron, gold, nickel, platinum, palladium, as well as silicate minerals.

Against the backdrop of assumptions about the presence of rare and precious elements in Psyche, its approximate value is currently estimated at $100,000 quadrillion (10 quintillion).

According to calculations by the specialized publication RankRed, as of March 2024, the total circulating money of all humanity (worldwide) amounts to about $8.27 trillion (including physical cash and funds held in savings and checking accounts).

Additionally, funds in the form of investments, derivatives, and cryptocurrencies slightly exceed $3.3 quadrillion.

When the research mission will reach the asteroid

With the aim to learn more about 16 Psyche, on October 13, 2023, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) launched a special mission to the asteroid.

The spacecraft, also named Psyche, was launched aboard a Falcon Heavy rocket by SpaceX from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, USA.

The journey to the asteroid will last for six years.

It is planned that by the end of July 2029, the asteroid's gravity will capture the spacecraft, and by August of the same year, it will come closest to the cosmic object. At that time, the minimum distance between them will be approximately 75 km.

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NASA's Psyche mission route (Infographic:

Psyche will spend approximately two years conducting orbit investigations of the asteroid, photographing, mapping its surface, and collecting all other necessary data.

"By studying asteroid Psyche, we hope to better understand our universe and our place in it, especially regarding the mysterious and impossible-to-reach metal core of our own home planet, Earth," emphasized Nicola Fox, Associate Administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

Is it possible to open mines on the asteroid

According to planetary scientist Philip Metzger from the University of Central Florida, some companies are already considering the possibility of building mines on Psyche.

According to the expert, technically, this is possible because there are virtually no differences between mining valuable minerals on the asteroid and on Earth.

However, specialized equipment capable of withstanding low gravity and high radiation will be needed to work on Psyche.

Additionally, the equipment must operate autonomously since it would take at least 20 minutes for any instructions sent via radio waves to reach the asteroid's surface.

Metzger mentioned that virtually all the necessary technologies for this purpose have long been developed and tested, although they are not yet ready for deployment.

He clarified that on NASA's technology readiness scale, equipment for resource extraction in space is estimated at about 5 out of 9 points (while at least 6-7 points are needed for real mission planning).

A geologist from the Colorado School of Mines, Kevin Cannon, also noted that the development of deposits on asteroids will likely be sponsored by private companies.

Therefore, whether there will be interested parties with capital to carry out the plans is only a matter of time.