Asteroids may not look like much on the outside, but you know what they say “Don’t judge a book by its cover”. Under the surface of several asteroids is a wealth trove of a type of mineral, called platinum, that is uncommon on Earth but exceptionally profitable - 1,000 cubic centimetres of platinum is worth close to $US1 million. An asteroid just like these will be flying by Earth on Sunday, July 19. And this specific one, called asteroid 2011 UW-158, is believed to harbor a projected $US5.4 trillion worth of platinum. Asteroid mining is an aim for near-future for space exploration, but we don’t have the technology at the moment to mine one. What’s more, even at its closest approach, the asteroid will still be 2.4 million km (1.5 million miles) from Earth - that’s about six times beyond than the Moon.
At a size of approximately 457-metres (1,500-feet) wide, identifying this asteroid will be like trying to spot an object one hundredth of an inch wide from a mile away. It is impossible to see this asteroid with the naked eye. Fortunately, the online observatory, Slooh, will be using their setof telescopes in the Canary Islands to see the asteroid as it flies by, and they will be broadcasting it online. The broadcast will start at 10pm UTC on Sunday (6pm ET on Sunday and 8am AEST on Monday) and will comprise commentary from host Eric Edelman and Slooh astronomer Bob Berman about the asteroid and the precious material it harbours. You can watch the broadcast below.