Asteroid Apophis photographed before its Earth flyby this weekend

NASA: Asteroid Apophis to come ‘close’ to Earth says expert

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The much talked about asteroid Apophis (99942) will fly by Earth this weekend. In preparation of the close approach, astronomers have already begun snapping images of the 370-metre wide space rock. The latest comes from the Virtual Telescope Project, which managed to take a photograph of the asteroid from a staggering 75 million kilometres away.

Against a back drop of stars, the small asteroid can be seen making its way through the solar system.

The Virtual Telescope Project said: “We captured (99942) Apophis again, while it is ready to come relatively close (15 millions of km) to us and we are ready to share it live with you.

“The image comes from a single, 300-seconds exposure, remotely taken with the ‘Elena’ (PlaneWave 17″+Paramount ME+SBIG STL-6303E) robotic unit available at Virtual Telescope.

“The telescope tracked the apparent motion of the asteroid, this is why stars show as short trails, while the asteroid looks like a bright and sharp dot of light in the centre of the image, marked by an arrow.

“At the imaging time, (99942) Apophis was at 17 million kilometres from the Earth.

“On 6 March 2021 it will be at its minimum distance from us, that is about 15 million kilometres, quite a lot, so there are no risk at all for us.”

You can watch the asteroid’s passing on March 6, courtesy of the Virtual Telescope Project, which will show a 24-hour live stream of Apophis’ safe passing.

The Virtual Telescope Project said: “By far the most famous potentially hazardous asteroid, (99942) Apophis will have a relatively close approach to Earth on March 6.

“While waiting for its record-setting 2029 fly-by, we will share this upcoming opportunity with you, so join us and see it live from the comfort of your home.”

Apophis is named after the Ancient Egyptian god of evil, darkness and destruction.

It is bigger than the Shard in London and any unlikely impact could have major consequences.

If the 27bn kilogram asteroid were to hit Earth, scientists calculate it would leave a crater more than a mile wide and a staggering 518 metres deep.

However, most worryingly, the impact would be equivalent to 880 million tonnes of TNT being detonated – 65,000 times as powerful as the nuclear bomb which was dropped on Hiroshima.

The asteroid will pass even closer to Earth in 2029, and it will again get nearer to Earth in its 2068 flyby.

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