Is asteroid Psyche really a piece of metal? Is there an object as wide as Massachusetts, the core of a baby planet whose rocky outer layers were torn off during a cataclysmic collision in the early days of the solar system?
Now, all astronomers can say is maybe, maybe not.
NASA is launching the Psyche spacecraft on a mission to explore the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
When is the launch and how do I watch it?
After a delay earlier this week due to bad weather, liftoff from Kennedy Space Center is scheduled for 10:19 a.m. ET on Friday. The shuttle flies on the Falcon Heavy, the largest of SpaceX’s orbital rockets, which is needed to provide the power to lift off the massive Psych shuttle. The launch will be live streamed NASA TV And on Agency’s YouTube channelStarts at 9:30am or you can watch in the video player embedded above.
Every day there is an instant launch opportunity – meaning the rocket has to lift off at a certain moment. According to Friday’s weather forecast, there is currently a chance for a timely lift-off 85 percent Positive, significant progress A Thursday report Thick clouds warned that the mission could be grounded. Less than an hour before the scheduled launch, the mission’s managers began the process of loading the rocket with propellants.
There are also opportunities to start in the coming days. The $1 billion Psych mission is due to launch by October 25, the closest the Solar System’s sky alignment spacecraft will ever reach the asteroid.
What is Psyche?
The asteroid named Psyche was discovered in 1852 by Italian astronomer Annibale di Casparis and named for the Greek goddess of the soul. It is the 16th asteroid to be discovered.
Observations beginning in the 1960s with telescopes and then radar suggested that Psyche was different from other asteroids between Jupiter and Mars.
Scientists have also found that it is much denser than rock.
“Some of those early estimates were, ‘Wow, this is very unusual,'” said Arizona State University Earth and Space Exploration Professor Jim Bell, who will conduct asteroid surveys with a camera on the spacecraft.
Psyche appeared to be almost pure metal, giving the impression that it might be the remnants of a baby planet’s core. Or maybe that hypothesis is completely wrong.
“The psychology may be completely different than that,” said Lindy Elkins-Daunton, professor of Earth and space exploration at Arizona State University, who serves as the mission’s principal investigator. “I want to be completely surprised.”
More recent measurements have led to lower estimates of the asteroid’s density, suggesting it’s more metal and something else — maybe rock, maybe empty space.
“My best guess is that it’s about half the metal based on the data we have,” Dr Elkins-Tanton said.
What happens after launch?
The Psyche spacecraft will swing by Mars in May 2026, use its gravity as a slingshot toward asteroid Psyche, travel 2.2 billion miles, and arrive in August 2029.
The spacecraft will spend at least 26 months in orbit around the asteroid, studying the body with various instruments.