Looking towards the heavens you may see something brighter than usual streak across the sky Sunday night as the asteroid dubbed ‘2011 UW158’ brushes by Earth. As it travels at phenomenal speeds, chances are if you aren’t paying close attention, you may miss the burst of light. But this particular asteroid has been proven to be more than just a shooting star in the night’s sky. Researchers have been studying the space rock in anticipation of its impending arrival.
Where is the best place to view the flyby from earth?
Discovered first on October 25, 2011 from an observatory in Hawaii, 2011 UW158 will be an amazing sight as it comes into focus, but the question for researchers is where is the best place to view this shining space rock?
You might start by finding the closest observatory offering live viewings, or if you’re NASA, you can carefully determine the best observatory in the world from which to glance into space, “We plan to observe 2011 UW158 at DSS-14, Arecibo, and probably also with Green Bank. Bistatic observations using transmissions from DSS-14 at 3.75 m (megapixels) resolution are likely.”
What exactly makes 2011 UW158 different from other asteroids?
Most would allude to the sheer value of the resources contained within the asteroid as an important reason to pay attention to the upcoming flyby. According to SLOOH, a well-known observation organization, experts believe that the asteroid contains around 5 trillion dollars’ worth of platinum overall, “…planetary scientists estimate the little asteroid might contain $300 billion to as much as $5.4 trillion dollars’ worth of precious metals and minerals.”
Has landing a probe on an asteroid diminished the need to study asteroids that fly by our planet?
Even though we have successfully landed a probe on an asteroid and greatly advanced our previous understanding of asteroid composition, it doesn’t mean we will ever stop studying these stellar visitors as they come near to our planet. Scientists are studying 2011 UW158 for potential mining in the future due to the close proximity at which it passes earth, “2011 UW158 is on NASA’s NHATS (Near-Earth Object Human Space Flight Accessible Targets Study) list of potential human mission targets.”
This is one of many asteroids being closely observed for its rare properties, and potential to provide resources which can be mined and brought to earth by robotics in the future, “The size, composition, and orbit of 2011 UW158 have gained it a place on the short list of asteroids that might make a good target for robotic mining missions in the near future.” For now, there is not much more we can do but snap a few pictures as it passes by, but observing 2011 UW158 could provide valuable insight into the future of space exploration, and the mining of resources from outer space sources.