Scientists say asteroid may hit Mars in late January

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December 21, 2007 05:08

 
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Mars could be in for an asteroid hit. A newly discovered hunk of space rock has a 1 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 the Tunguska object that hit remote central Siberia in 1908, unleashing energy equivalent to a 15-megaton nuclear bomb that wiped out 60 million trees. Scientists tracking the asteroid, which is halfway to Mars, initially put the odds of impact at 1 in 350 and increased the chances this week after analyzing the data. Scientists expect the odds to diminish again early next month after getting new observations of the asteroid's orbit, Chesley said.

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