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Saturday, December 22, 2007

 

Asteroid on track for possible Mars hit

‘An asteroid similar to the one that flattened forests in Siberia in 1908 could plow into Mars next month, scientists said Thursday.

Researchers attached to NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program, who sometimes jokingly call themselves the Solar System Defense Team, have been tracking the asteroid since its discovery in late November.

The scientists, at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La CaƱada Flintridge, put the chances that it will hit the Red Planet on Jan. 30 at about 1 in 75.

A 1-in-75 shot is “wildly unusual,” said Steve Chesley, an astronomer with the Near-Earth Object office, which routinely tracks about 5,000 objects in Earth’s neighborhood.

“We’re used to dealing with odds like one-in-a-million,” Chesley said. “Something with a one-in-a-hundred chance makes us sit up straight in our chairs.”‘




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