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The Riches of the Cosmos

For centuries, humans have valued precious metals and gemstones, both for their aesthetic value and real world utility. They’re also coveted because of their relative scarcity on Earth. Despite the rarity of these elements on our planet, there are places in the known universe where these stones and jewels are considerably more abundant.

Many have speculated that humans could eventually tap the resources of space, from rare earth elements on the moon,to exploiting near-earth asteroids and cometsthat could reduce the cost and time involved for future missions to deep space. However, the current technologies prohibit the retrieval of these extraterrestrial resources, which have often only been observed through deep space telescopes and spectroscopy techniques.

This week, Asteroid 2005 YU55 will pass between the Earth and the Moon, and although experts say there is no chance the asteroid will hit our planet, it is also an unlikely candidate for mining resources. According to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory,2005 YU55 is classified as a C-type asteroid, which generally are composed of primitive materials such as hydrogen and helium, and are unlikely candidates for more complex elements such as precious metals.

Although human understanding of the Universe is limited on a level detailed enough to identify exact compositions of heavenly bodies, some studies have revealed promising results, pointing to vast riches of other worlds.

So, where are some of the richest known places in the Universe? Click ahead to find out.

By Paul Toscano
Posted 8 Nov 2011

Photo: NASA | Hubblesite.org