Asteroid: MARS ATTACK
It will be interesting to view this as a televised asteroid attack if scientists are proven correct in their assertion that an asteroid impact on Mars would be on a scale of 15 megaton nuclear bomb.
Asteroid could collide with Mars in late January: astromomers
This image provided by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope shows a close-up of the red planet Mars when it was closest to the Hubble Space Telescope - just 88 million kilometers away from Earth on Dec. 18, at 11:45 p.m. Universal Time (6:45 p.m. EST). (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/NASA)
LOS ANGELES - Mars could be in for an asteroid hit.
A newly discovered hunk of space rock has a one-in-75 chance of slamming into the Red Planet on Jan. 30, scientists said Thursday.
"These odds are extremely unusual. We frequently work with really long odds when we track...threatening asteroids," said Steve Chesley, an astronomer with the Near Earth Object Program at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
The asteroid, known as 2007 WD5, was discovered in late November and is similar in size to an object that hit remote central Siberia in 1908, unleashing energy equivalent to a 15-megaton nuclear bomb and wiping out 60 million trees.
Scientists tracking the asteroid, currently halfway between Earth and Mars, initially put the odds of impact at one in 350 but increased the chances this week. Scientists expect the odds to diminish again early next month after new observations of the asteroid's orbit, Chesley said.
"We know that it's going to fly by Mars and most likely going to miss but there's a possibility of an impact," he said.
If the asteroid does smash into Mars, it will probably hit near the equator close to where the rover Opportunity has been exploring the Martian plains since 2004. The robot is not in danger because it lies outside the impact zone. Speeding at 13 kilometres a second, the asteroid would carve a hole the size of the famed Meteor Crater in Arizona.
In 1994, fragments of the comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 smacked into Jupiter, creating a series of overlapping fireballs in space. Astronomers have yet to witness an asteroid impact with another planet.
"Unlike an Earth impact, we're not afraid but we're excited," Chesley said.
On the Net:
Near Earth Object Program: http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov