Asteroid with platinum core worth £3.5 trillion set to pass Earth (The Independent – July 18, 2015)

An asteroid believed to contain a platinum core worth £3.5 trillion is expected to pass Earth at around 10pm on Sunday, attracting the interest of asteroid-mining companies.

The platinum-filled space rock which is also thought to contain other precious materials is only around half a mile wide, but its metallic core is estimated to weigh 100 million tonnes making it hugely valuable.

Asteroid 2011 UW-158 will pass 1.5 million miles away from Earth, meaning it will be 30 times closer than our nearest planet, according to Slooh Community Observatory.

However, it will be six times further away than the moon’s orbit meaning it will be impossible to see with the naked eye.

For those who don’t own a telescope, the Slooh Observatory will be live-broadcasting the asteroid’s path online from their base in the Canary Islands.

On Tuesday, scientists at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico provided the first detailed images of the asteroid.

They said that while most asteroids seem to be numerous smaller rocks held loosely together by gravity, UW-158 had “an odd shape much like an unshelled walnut”.

They also observed that it “rotates very rapidly, once every 37 minutes”.

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