Mars could be hit by asteroid next month

Scientists say there is a one-in-75 chance a significant asteroid could crash into Mars on January 30, reports AFP:

An asteroid hurtling towards Mars has a one in 75 chance of chance of scoring a direct hit on the red planet next month, NASA experts said in a statement Friday.

The US space agency’s Near Earth Object Program (NEOP) revealed that the asteroid’s exact course was difficult to predict, but said it could slam into Mars on January 30, leaving a crater measuring an estimated 1 kilometer across.

If the asteroid, which has been named 2007 WD5, missed Mars as expected it could return to swing past Earth years or decades later, but there was no indication of a threat to the planet, scientists said.

A collision with Mars would be likely to send an enormous dust cloud into the planet’s atmosphere.

The exact path of the asteroid, which was discovered in November by the NASA-funded Catalina Sky Survey near Tucson, Arizona, was becoming increasingly difficult to observe because it was receding from the Earth, scientists said.

The asteroid, believed to measure around 50 meters (160 feet) across, had already passed within 7.5 million kilometers (5 million miles) of Earth in early November.

Read the rest at the link above. If it hits, there is a good chance our orbiter and at least one of the rovers may have a ringside seat.

Thanks to reader nogo postal for pointing out this story.

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