The impact site of the “2017 EK-15” asteroid containing 600 kg of gold will be in California, a few tens of kilometres from the city of San Francisco
The “2017 EK-15” asteroid is to come into contact with our planet on Sunday, 26 November 2017 at exactly 8:45 a.m.
But there is no need for panic as there is no indication that this encounter will be anything like a disaster scenario worthy of a major Hollywood film production. The celestial body’s modest size fortunately means that it represents no danger for our planet and its inhabitants.
The asteroid’s presence was accidentally discovered this winter by an amateur astronaut during an internship at the Hawaii Astronomical Observatory
When asked, Bob Harris, the Head of the Centre for Space Research and Study of Celestial Bodies, wanted to sound reassuring in this regard: “This asteroid is similar in size to the thousands of asteroids that hit the Earth each year. Under normal circumstances, this collision would be completely unnoticed. What makes this encounter so unprecedented is that this asteroid is made almost entirely of gold, which explains its high density given its so small size“.
Indeed, a MRI fluctuating spectroscopy study carried out from the Muro Hawawa Observatory (Huawei) revealed that 87 per cent of the asteroid, which has a gross weight of around 700 kg, was made of precious metals. More specifically, its core consists of 609 kg of gold surrounded by a 12 cm thick crust of magnesio-carbon.
“Like a heat shield, its metal carbonate crust will be entirely consumed during its re-entry into the atmosphere. This will allow all the precious metal contained in its core to be kept intact“, said Bob Harris.
In addition to the asteroid’s exceptional metal characteristics, its shape is also totally unprecedented:
“Due to its extraordinary density (editor’s note: the density of gold is 19.3 g/cm3), the asteroid, during its travels around the Sun, has become almost spherical in shape, which distinguishes it from misshapen comets which mainly consist of ice and dust“.
To illustrate his point, Bob Harris showed us the Earth’s globe on his desk:
“To give you an idea of the asteroid’s size, imagine that it has a diameter of 40 cm almost the same as that of this globe, or about the size of two footballs”
The most fascinating aspect of this encounter with our planet is that the latest forecasts, while still needing to be refined, indicate a drop point on U.S. soil, and specifically in California.
“There again, it’s amazing that this asteroid is to end up in America. Don’t forget that 75% of our planet is covered by oceans. Most asteroids hitting us typically get lost in the ocean and when, on rare occasions, they do fall on the Earth, it is usually in remote, inaccessible regions“.
And all these troubling characteristics are precisely what have concerned and alerted public authorities.
For a time, military authorities thought they could keep quiet about the geographical coordinates of the fall point but it turned out that they were already doing the rounds on social networks.
“We hence prefer to focus our approach on prevention rather than repression“, said colonel Anderson, the officer responsible for exceptional cosmological event safeguarding operations.
To cope with the foreseeable crowds of our fellow citizens gathering at the fall site located only a few tens of kilometres away from San Francisco, the authorities have thus already planned to secure the surrounding area.
There are several concerns which take various forms depending on the department involved:
– Scientists fear that the meteorite, which can easily fit into the boot of a light vehicle, will be stolen upon its arrival on Earth by inconsiderate and unscrupulous individuals. This would be a real disaster and obviously a huge loss for scientific research.
– The more pragmatic military authorities fear crowd movements and collective hysteria on a post-apocalyptic scale, at the fall site.
– And finally, and without doubt the ministry most concerned, the tax office fears that this “manna from heaven” will be stolen and not declared for tax purposes.
At the going price for precious metals, these 609 kg of pure gold represent a market value of $18 million.
Understandably, the idea of such an amount evading social contributions and tax levies is enough to torment all the tax inspectors in the country, if not all those worldwide.