Author`s name Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey

Apophis asteroid passes close to Earth on Wednesday

Astronomers say the asteroid Apophis approach poses no danger to the planet...

The asteroid Apophis will pass 14.5 million miles from Earth on Wednesday (9th) at 22 hours (GMT), the closest celestial body to our planet observed so far. According to astronomers, the event poses no danger, since the distance is 36 times the distance from Earth to the Moon.

 Discovered in 2004, Apophis would have one chance in 45 of hitting Earth in 2029, but advanced studies ruled out this hypothesis. However, there is still a chance of it colliding with the planet in 2036, and the approach of this day will help predict this probability.

It is estimated that Apophis has a diameter of 270 meters, about three times the size of a football field.  The ESA / Herschel Observatory captured a picture of the asteroid Apophis on January 5.

In 2029, the asteroid will pass closer to Earth than on Wednesday, just 30 thousand miles away. In comparison with the distance of the Moon to the Earth, which is 385,000 kilometers, and communications satellites orbiting 36 kilometers away from Earth.

When first discovered, the object received the provisional designation 2004 MN4 (sometimes written 2004 MN4), and news and scientific articles about it referred to it by that name. When its orbit was sufficiently well calculated, it received the permanent number 99942 (on June 24, 2005). Receiving a permanent number made it eligible for naming, and it received the name "Apophis" on July 19, 2005. Apophis is the Greek name of an enemy of the Ancient Egyptian sun-god Ra: Apep, the Uncreator, an evil serpent that dwells in the eternal darkness of the Duat and tries to swallow Ra during his nightly passage.

On Wednesday, the maximum of its splendor, the asteroid named after this Egyptian god of darkness, will not be visible enough to be seen by an amateur telescope, but the Slooh space camera site will transmit the passage of the comet from 22h (GMT) in English.

Scientists at the have calculated that if Apophis struck the Earth it would generate a blast equivalent to more than 500 megatons of TNT.

Translated from the Portuguese version by:

Lisa Karpova