ASTEROID APOPHIS, which has been confirmed by astronomers to pose absolutely no threat to Earth, has been bizarrely branded a biblical sign of prophecy by a Christian evangelist.
Asteroid Apophis will safely coast past Earth on April 13, 2029, coming within 19,000 miles (31,000 km) of Earth’s surface. On the day of the flyby, the asteroid will become the biggest space rock to come this close to Earth, measuring an estimated 1,110ft (340m) across. But the asteroid is not expected to pose any threat and scientists are instead excited about the possibility of studying Apophis up-close in astronomical terms.
Richard Binzel, a planetary scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said: “The excitement is that an object this large comes this close about once per thousand years, so it’s all about, ‘What’s the opportunity?'”
The US space agency NASA has ruled out all odds of impact, assuring Apophis will not cross paths with our planet.
But there are some who are using the asteroid’s flyby as an opportunity to peddle doomsday prophecies and biblical warnings of the end times.
In particular, pastor Paul Begley of West Lafayette in Indiana, US, believes there are passages in the Bible that back his outlandish claims.
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In a live broadcast to his more than 335,000 YouTube followers, the preacher linked Asteroid Apophis to passages in Revelation 8:8.
Pastor Begley said: “It doesn’t matter if it deep impacts us or not. It’s too big, that’s too close.
“There will be explosions, much like the February 2013 asteroid that exploded over the Earth over Siberia in Russia, which damaged over 1,500 buildings and injured over 1,000 people.”
The doomsday preacher firmly believes warnings of the world’s fiery demise penned in the Bible’s Book of Revelation will come to pass one day.
Revelation 8:8 speaks of a “huge mountain, all ablaze” crashing into the seas.
Pastor Begley, and other US evangelists, believe the mountain is a prophetic reference to an asteroid impact.
He said: “We kept watching the biblical prophecies of the Bible and we realised that we’re really going to see major, major impacts, and major events are going to happen due to this debris field.”
But there is no evidence to suggest Apophis or any other known asteroid in the solar system will crash into Earth within the next few hundred years.
Space agencies like NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) keep a watchful eye on all space rocks that zip past our planet.
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Every month, dozens of so-called near-Earth objects (NEOs) come flying past Earth, but much like Asteroid Apophis, the odds of an impact are almost always ruled out.
NEOs will sometimes make a so-called “close approach” but these are only close in astronomical terms – within 4.64 million miles of Earth.
NASA said: “Because of the ongoing search efforts to find nearly all the large NEOs, objects will occasionally be found to be on very close Earth approaching trajectories.
“Great care must then be taken to verify any Earth collision predictions that are made.
“Given the extremely unlikely nature of such a collision, almost all of these predictions will turn out to be false alarms.
“However, if an object is verified to be on an Earth colliding trajectory, it seems likely that this collision possibility will be known several years prior to the actual event.”
Although NASA has said Apophis’ flyby will be “one for the record books”, the space rock does not pose any danger to Earth.
Asteroid Apophis was first discovered in 2004 and was initially given a 2.7 percent possibility of impacting Earth in 2029.
Further observations have ruled out this possibility, meaning it is unlikely Asteroid Apophis is pastor Begley’s biblical harbinger of doom.
Marina Brozović, a radar scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said: “The Apophis close approach in 2029 will be an incredible opportunity for science.
“We’ll observe the asteroid with both optical and radar telescopes.
“With radar observations, we might be able to see surface details that only a few metres in size.”
At its closest flyby, the asteroid will be visible from Earth, appearing as a moving spot of light in the night sky over the southern hemisphere.