Can We Find the Heaviest Elements in Asteroids?

Asteroids are out there, and some pose a threat to Earth. How will we react when we determine that one's coming for us? Credit: N. Bartmann (ESA/Webb), ESO/M. Kornmesser and S. Brunier, N. Risinger (

One of the reasons that asteroid mining is such a popular idea among industrialists is that they holds large quantities of heavy elements. NASA’s Psyche spacecraft just launched this week, headed for an asteroid that holds ten to thirty quintillion U.S dollars worth of rare-earth elements and other heavy metals. During our planet’s formation, the heavier of these elements tended to sink deep into the Earth, making them hard to find. But even in small asteroids, these heavy elements might be much more common and accessible. Since we rely on these rare-earth elements for our modern society, metal-rich asteroids such as Psyche are worth checking out.

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