NASA has been doing a lot of work with asteroids lately, recently launching plans to probe an asteroid so rich in precious metals, it’s worth quadrillions of dollars. Now, scientists have confirmed the existence of a completely different kind of space rock, a “Trojan asteroid,” a celestial mass that shares Earth’s orbit with the sun.
The Trojan asteroid was initially discovered in 2020, one of only two Trojan asteroids ever discovered, both of which lie in our own planet’s orbital path around the sun. Deemed Asteroid 2020 XL5, scientists’ latest discovery is three times the size of our planet’s primary Trojan asteroid, discovered a decade ago in 2011. This smaller space rock boasts the name Asteroid 2010 TK7.
According to Live Science, our planet’s Trojan asteroids are relatively difficult to spot, for amateurs and professionals alike. The outlet states that 2010 TK7 especially is frequently found on the other side of the sun from us, therefore completely blocked out by our solar system’s star.
Further, these asteroids sit in what the outlet referred to as “gravitational sweet spots,” or Langrarian points. Essentially, a Langrarian point makes up the third and final point of a triangle, the Earth and Sun making up the other two points.
As for the new Trojan body, it shares the same orbital path as our planet. It should remain at this Langrarian point for 4,000 years or more. As to the space rock’s size, scientists estimate its diameter to reach about 0.7 miles total. However, that distance may be greater or less depending on the reflective properties of the asteroid.
NASA Plans to Probe Golden Asteroid
Recall that “golden asteroid” I mentioned above? Yes, such a thing exists. And while it is rich in precious metals, its actual worth far surpasses even the wealth of our entire global economy.
Known as 16 Psyche, the asteroid is believed to be largely comprised of nickel, iron, or gold. Valued at $10 quadrillion, our entire global economy amounts to a mere $83.5 trillion in total.
That said, for now, NASA has no plans on mining the asteroid for its worth. Instead, the space agency has announced plans to send a probe to the asteroif for research purposes only this August. However, 16 Psyche’s probe as quite the journey ahead.
As per The U.S. Sun, the probe, identified as NASA’s Discovery Mission, will soar past Mars in May 2023. It won’t be until 2026 that NASA’s Discovery Mission reaches the golden space rock.
Once there, however, the Discovery Missionn will have a lot of ground to cover. Compared to 2020 XL5’s mere 0.7 miles in diameter, 16 Psyche measures a much more massive 140 miles across. Additionally, its score of precious metals makes its surface immensely reflective, standing out against other celestial bodies.