An asteroid that is said to contain about $5.4 trillion worth of platinum will zoom past the Earth on Sunday, July 19. The asteroid is called the 2011 UW-158 and is one of the three "potentially hazardous asteroids" identified by the Minor Planet Center, together with the 1994 AW1 and the 1999 JD6.
The 2011 UW-158 measures about 1,500 feet in width, as estimated by the Goldstone Radar Observatory. As it is expected to pass by the Earth at a distance of 1.5 million miles, observing the asteroid with the naked eye is said to be impossible. Experts compared its raw observation to viewing an object that is one hundredth of an inch wide and is located one mile away.
Astronomers whether professional or amateur need not to be disappointed as Slooh, an online observatory, will provide a live streaming telecast of the event as it happens. Slooh will be using their telescopes located at the Canary Islands and will hold a full broadcasting service, accompanied by commentaries from Eric Edelman and Bob Berman, a Slooh astronomer. They will be providing insights about the asteroids, including the remunerative component it contains.
Because of asteroids' lucrative content, particularly the 2011 UW-158, asteroid mining is currently being looked at by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and a company named Planetary Sources.
Planetary Sources classifies the 2011 UW-158 as an "X-type" of asteroid, which is characterized by the primary composition of metal and the likelihood that it is a remnant of a larger asteroid that underwent collisions during the early period of the solar system. The company already made their initial move to test their mining technologies through the launch of their first demonstration vehicle from the International Space Station (ISS).
"The successful deployment of the A3R is a significant milestone for Planetary Resources as we forge a path toward prospecting resource-rich asteroids," says Peter H. Diamandis, co-founder of the company. Their team of experts is said to develop a system that will help humans to create economic possibilities outside of the Earth, which will in turn modify how life is lived on the planet.
NASA also hopes to capture an asteroid and move it in orbit around the moon so that space explorers will be able to come to it and collect samples by 2025. According to the agency, the elements frozen inside the asteroids could help generate fuel for rockets and sustain space mission longer. Experts also say that the presence of water in these asteroids will enable the space explorers to separate oxygen and hydrogen elements, which are crucial to maintain rockets.
2011 UW-158 was first discovered in October 2011 and has been on NASA's NHATS list of possible targets for future human missions.