• An asteroid similar to this one was photographed by a Chinese observatory as it travels past the Earth.

An asteroid similar to this one was photographed by a Chinese observatory as it travels past the Earth. (Photo : Twitter)

A Chinese telescope has captured images of an asteroid as it approaches the Earth.

The images of the asteroid, named 2009ES by the International Astronomical Union;s Minor Planet Center, was captured by the Purple Mountain Observatory in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province, the Global Times reported.

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According to Zhao Haibin, one of the observatory's staff, the images were captured by the facility;s 1.2 meter Schmidt telescope while the asteroid was at a distance 18.8 times as far the moon is from the earth. Zhao added that they were first notified by the MPC about the asteroid's approached on Sept. 5 and was requested by the center to observe it as it passes over their scope of view.

This is the first time that the observatory has captured images of the asteroid. However, eight other observatories from around the world have tracked and imaged the asteroid.

Zhao said that the images they have captured will help astronomers around keep track of the trajectory traveled by the asteroid. 2009ES is one of the 1,640 asteroids and other minor bodies the MPC classified as potentially coming close to the Earth.

He explained that the trajectories of asteroids could be affected by the gravitational pull of planet like Mars, which is why it is crucial to continuously keep track of its path.

According to scientists, an asteroid 10 kilometers across colliding with the Earth could cause an impact comparable to the one that is believed to have caused the extinction of dinosaurs some 65 million years ago.

Meanwhile, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has launched a new probe to collect samples from the asteroid Bennu. The Osiris-Rex probe was launched aboard an Atlas V rocket on Sept. 9 and is expected to t5ake two years to reach the asteroid, which circles the sun at a slightly larger orbit than that of Earth, the China Post reported.

Measuring 500 meters across, Bennu is believed to contain carbon dating back to the beginning of the solar system some 4.5 billion years ago. It is hoped that the samples to be collect ted would provide clues to the origin of life on our planet and possible in other parts of the solar system.