Asteroid On Path to Smash Mars

Big rock has a good chance of striking on Jan. 30
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 20, 2007 8:17 PM CST
This image provided by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope shows a close-up of Mars when it was closest to the Hubble Space Telescope, just 55 million miles away.   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – A big asteroid has a decent chance of blasting into Mars next month with potentially devastating consequences for the Red Planet, the LA Times reports. Back on earth, meanwhile, astronomers say that being able to watch an asteroid impact for the first time would be a "scientific bonanza." The potential date is Jan. 30.

The asteroid is about 160 feet across, similar to one that crashed into Siberia in 1908 and flattened 80 million trees. The thin atmosphere of Mars would make this one even more violent, making plumes of dust visible through telescopes here. The asteroid has a 1-in-75 chance of hitting. "We're used to dealing with odds like one-in-a-million," said one astronomer. This "makes us sit up straight in our chairs."