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  • Lurking between Mars and Jupiter, lies the large asteroid, Psycheone of the only

  • asteroids that we know of, that scientists believe may be mostly made of metal, and researchers

  • from NASA and Arizona State University will be sending an orbiter to it

  • for the very first time.

  • We've never explored a terrain like this before, and it could be our only key to understanding

  • what the inside of Earth's core could be like.

  • Visiting asteroids isn't new to space exploration with Vesta, Ceres, Ryugu, and Bennu being

  • some of our most recent mission destinations.

  • And far as asteroids go, they've all pretty much been the same; usually rocky, airless

  • drifting through the cosmos as leftover debris from a chaotic beginning.

  • But Psyche is unique.

  • We're pretty sure that it's largely made of iron-nickel metal.

  • And there are very, very few asteroids out in the asteroid belt that we think are made

  • of metal, or largely of metal.

  • So it's a whole new kind of exploration, one that humankind hasn't done before.

  • So Psyche's iron-nickel properties is what makes it stand out, specifically because those

  • elements are often found within the cores of terrestrial, or rocky planets, like Earth.

  • But Earth's core lies at more than an unreachable three thousand kilometers below the surface,

  • whereas Psyche is just out in the open ready to be studied.

  • Researchers suspect the asteroid is an exposed core of a protoplanet, which is a planet in

  • its early formation stages.

  • It's most likely that Psyche lost its rocky exterior during violent collisions in the

  • beginning of our solar system's evolution...

  • at least, that's what scientists' best assumptions are.

  • But the fact is no one has ever seen Psyche as more than a speck of light, even in the Hubble

  • Space Telescope, it's just two pixels.

  • So we have idea of shape and size and mass, but we do not know what a metal world looks

  • like, and so...

  • ...When we, the robotic spacecraft, go and orbit Psyche, we'll be sending back camera images.

  • We're gonna share them with everyone in the world as soon as we see them so we can all

  • be saying right away, "What is that?"

  • And figuring out what that speck of light really looks like up close.

  • But this does beg the question, if we've never seen a metallic body like this, how

  • exactly will we explore it?

  • Well the team believes they've taken on the challenge with a suite of perfect instruments.

  • So we'll send cameras, of course, because we have to see it, and we'll send magnetometers.

  • If it has a magnetic field recorded, then it was certainly part of the core of a little

  • planetesimal, a little baby planet that never joined in with our big planets.

  • And then we'll bring this amazing instrument called the gamma ray and neutron spectrometer.

  • It's built by a team at Applied Physics Laboratory, and it will be able to tell us the composition

  • of the surface, by measuring radiation coming off of Psyche.

  • Gamma ray and neutron spectroscopy is a commonly used technique for measuring the composition

  • of planetary bodies, and has seen success in analysis of the Moon, Mars, Mercury, and

  • even other asteroids like Vesta, and Ceres.

  • It works a bit like this:

  • There are, um, intergalactic cosmic rays, these very high-energy pieces of radiation,

  • particles that come flying into our solar system and bombard our planets.

  • And on Psyche, when these cosmic rays strike the surface, the atoms that they hit will

  • then give off a gamma ray or a neutron in return and the energy of that is exactly indicative

  • of what kind of atom it was.

  • Technological advancements like this are happening all the time, there's even a new communication

  • demonstration onboard Psyche, called the Deep Space Optical Communication (DSOC).

  • It will test how we can communicate with spacecraft using photons in lasers rather than radio waves.

  • The method, while complex, could send data at least 10 times faster than our current

  • communication strategies.

  • A resource that could help habitability on a place like Mars.

  • So the researchers have a lot on their plate, deep in the trenches of preparation, and building

  • their instruments.

  • Ambitions and anticipations are high for the Psyche team as the 2022 launch date approaches

  • and they're ready to share that excitement with the world.

  • Well, the thing I'm most excited about on the mission itself is just to see something outrageous,

  • to see something that humans haven't seen before, to be able to bring back the image of a new thing in

  • our solar system that will just expand human imagination.

  • I think exploration is something that's just baked into being human, and the ability to

  • to build this spacecraft that's so complicated that no single person can understand how it

  • works, send it out through the solar system, and have it send back information to us here

  • on Earth,

  • I think it is both inspiring and also, um, emboldening for all of us on Earth.

  • We can certainly do more in our own lives if we can also do this thing in space.

  • And that's what I hope for the most for the mission.

  • I want it to engage people here on Earth.

  • Are there are any launches that you'd like to see us cover?

  • Let us know down in the comments, and make sure to subscribe back to Seeker for all your

  • rocket launch news.

  • Thanks for watching.

Lurking between Mars and Jupiter, lies the large asteroid, Psycheone of the only

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This Metal Asteroid Could Reveal Secrets About Earth’s Core | Countdown to Launch

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    林宜悉 posted on 2020/04/13
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