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Astronomers around the world will be keeping a close watch as the menacing asteroid Apophis begins a sweep past the Earth today.

Sky watchers will also be able to go on the Internet to view live images of the asteroid, which research shows could collide with the planet in 2036.

But over the next few days, Apophis, which is just over 300 metres in diameter, will come within only 15 million kilometres of the Earth.

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While that's way beyond the orbit of the moon and far enough away not to cause any concern, scientists say it will come even closer in 16 years.

Andrew Fazekas, a spokesman for the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, says the asteroid will pass about 30,000 kilometres above the Earth in 2029.

Fazekas says research done on near-Earth asteroids has shown there's a small chance there could be an impact with Apophis when it comes around again in April 2036.

But he adds that further calculations need to be done because the asteroid's orbit could be changed slightly by the gravitational pull from the Earth after this year's visit.

Fazekas says people will be able to go online at slooh.com and view the asteroid live during its fly past.

The images will be provided by a robotic telescope located in the Canary Islands off the coast of Africa, beginning at 7 p.m. EST.

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