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NASA Wants to Probe a Giant Metal Asteroid, Hopefully Won’t Discover It’s a Death Star

Why do they want to study it? It's just so metal. (Sorry. Couldn't help myself.)

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As far as NASA knows, a 155 mile wide mostly-metal space object is unique in our solar system, which is probably because it takes a whole lot of resources and time to build a Death Star. Or, it could be that it’s not often a planet almost forms and then has all of the rock bombarded off of to expose its metal core. Whichever.

Currently classified as neither moon nor space station, the asteroid “Psyche” is a giant, mostly iron ball that floats around in the solar system’s asteroid belt. Scientists theorize that it was once a protoplanet, which is an object that forms as matter in a star system condenses and sometimes goes on to draw in enough other objects with its gravity to become a planet.

In Psyche’s case, it seems that any rocky substances it may have once attracted have since been blasted off of it in impacts with other objects in the asteroid belt, and all that’s left is a ball of iron that is likely very similar to the core of a planet. It’s the only object of its kind that scientists know of in our solar system, which is why they want to investigate the “metal world.”

Most planets’ cores are hard to study, because they’re buried beneath a whole bunch of, well, planet. Studying Psyche could provide a lot of new information on planetary cores and how planets are formed, and presumably, NASA is hoping to find out it’s really a small version of Cybertron (or Gobotron, if you grew up watching the bizarro-Transformers like I did). We sure are.

NASA scientists will formally present plans to send a probe to Psyche in 2015, and it should be an easy and cost effective mission, since no new technology needs to be invented for it. Then, we’ll get a whole bunch of great new discoveries in planetary science. Alternately, we could find out it’s a mini metal planet full of mini Transformers. What? It could happen, and mini Optimus Prime would be adorable. Don’t crush my dreams.

(via Space.com, image via Michael Wifall)

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