In space, an asteroid is just a flying hunk of space junk, but bring it to Earth and this wandering rock could be worth an astonishing fortune.
This is so because beneath some asteroids' rocky exterior lies a variety of valuable minerals, including platinum, which sell for exorbitant prices in our world. One such asteroid is scheduled to fly past the Earth on Sunday, making astronomers and geologists wonder what its true value might be in worldly terms.
Various experts have estimated asteroid 2011 UW-158's worth in trillions, with the highest estimation being an eye-watering $5.4 trillion. They've managed to arrive at this figure by analyzing the mass, volume and composition of this rock via instruments known as spectrometers.
Seeing such a fortune go past our planet, and out of our grasp, will certainly disappoint some and might also inspire space explorers to fast track work on technology that will enable them to mine asteroids in future.
While Hollywood may have made landing on an asteroid look easier, the reality is quite different. Even though 2011 UW-158 will technically fly past Earth, the distance between the two bodies is a massive 1.5 million miles. Plans are in place to one day be able to mine celestial bodies, but so far our space exploration technology is not quite there.
"It's always fun when an asteroid whooshes past our world," Slooh astronomer Bob Berman said in an announcement. "What makes this unusual is the large amount of platinum believed to be lurking in the body of this space visitor. Can it be mined someday, perhaps not too far in the future?"
Not only is the asteroid's out-of-this-world value out of our grasp, but it's flyby past Earth is out of our sight with the naked eye. Fortunately, Slooh, a network of astronomers, set up a video stream for us to watch it via their super powerful telescopes.