A Rare Metal Asteroid Near Earth Studied, Found to Be Worth Trillions

A new study published by researchers reveals an asteroid near Earth that would be worth trillions of dollars if mined.

There are many asteroids in space, and some of them contain large amounts of precious metals that are used to make smartphones, batteries, and large skyscrapers here on Earth.

Human civilization does not yet have the technology to harvest the materials contained in these asteroids, but that hasn’t stopped researchers from estimating how valuable they would be if it were possible. A recent study published in The Planetary Science Journal explores the impact of mining the precious metal-rich asteroid named 1986 DA.

The researchers who led the study discovered that the asteroid is 85 percent metallic and may contain the following metals: iron, nickel, cobalt, copper, gold, and platinum. The mass of these metals contained in the 1986 DA, according to the researchers, would exceed the total metal reserves on Earth. Furthermore, the researchers calculated the asteroid’s value, accounting for market deflation that would occur if the materials were transported back to Earth and sold.

The researchers estimated that mining the asteroid for its metals would yield $233 billion per year over a 50-year period. The total value of 1986 DA was estimated to be $11.65 trillion.

David Cantillo, a co-author on the study, said, “We believe that these two ‘mini Psyches’ are probably fragments from a large metallic asteroid in the main belt, but not Psyche itself. It’s possible that some of the iron and stony-iron meteorites found on Earth could have also come from that region in the solar system too.

According to the researchers, 1986 DA and the other asteroid studied, 2016 ED85, have a similar composition to the famous asteroid Psyche. The rare heavy-metal object, called “16 Psyche,” is one of the largest celestial bodies in the Solar System’s main asteroid belt, orbiting between Mars and Jupiter. It’s located at roughly 370 million km (230 million miles) from Earth and measures 226 km (140 miles) across. The asteroid is so rich in metals that its worth puts our global economy to shame. Think $10,000 quadrillion ($10,000,000,000,000,000,000), compared to the world’s economy, which was worth about $142 trillion in 2019.

A Rare Metal Asteroid Near Earth Studied, Found to Be Worth Trillions
Artist’s concept of the asteroid 16 Psyche, which is thought to be a stripped planetary core. MAXAR/ASU/P. RUBIN/NASA/JPL-CALTECH

Vishnu Reddy, an associate professor at the University of Arizona and co-lead on the study, said, “We started a compositional survey of the NEA [near-Earth asteroids] population in 2005, when I was a graduate student, with the goal of identifying and characterizing rare NEAs such as these metal-rich asteroids. It is rewarding that we have discovered these ‘mini Psyches’ so close to the Earth.

READ MORE: Why Smashing Asteroids to Save Earth Likely Won’t Work

A Rare Metal Asteroid Near Earth Studied, Found to Be Worth Trillions

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