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A possible Martian impact could take place next month

Mars may endure an asteroid hit in the near future, scientists from the Near Earth Object Program (NEO) reported last week.  A group of NASA experts released a statement claiming an asteroid 2007 WD5 has a one in 75 chance of a direct hit of the Martian surface next month.  The NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory's NEO program is responsible for monitoring any and all flying objects that may pose a risk of impacting Earth.

Astronomers closely monitored the asteroid after it was discovered in November by the Catalina Sky Survey, which helps discover near-earth objects (NEOs).  Originally given odds of 1 in 350 of hitting the Red Planet, the odds jumped up after new calculations on Thursday.

Assuming the asteroid does impact the Red Planet scientists would see a great explosion able to reveal soil contents never before seen by researchers.  NASA expects it to hit the surface at 8.4 miles per second, which is the equivalent of a 3 megaton explosion.  This would leave a crater more than a half-mile in diameter.

"We're used to dealing with odds like one-in-a-million," said NEOP astronomer Steve Chesley told the L.A. Times.  "Something with a one-in-a-hundred chance makes us sit up straight in our chairs."

The possible impact would take place on January 30, 2008 at almost 3:00 a.m. PST.  The location on Mars is near the location of the Mars rover Opportunity, one of two crafts examining the Martian surface.

If the asteroid does not impact Mars, NEO warns it would approach Earth "years or decades later," but said there is no risk of it hitting the planet.

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RE: wth
By Souka on 12/27/2007 12:05:51 AM , Rating: 2
yeah...was thinking same thing... 30,240 MPH...but "only" 3 megaton...

How big(mass) is this puppy? like a basketball?

I guess E = MV^2

So.............. 3megaton = M*(30,240 MPH)^2
which becomes... 3megaton/(30,240 MPH)^2 = M

But I have no idea how to handle the units correctly to figure out MASS in units I can understand...

RE: wth
By Goty on 12/27/2007 1:22:00 AM , Rating: 2
Well, you've kinda got a bastardization of E = m*c^2 and K = 1/2*m*v^2 going on there (E is mass energy, K is kinetic energy).

So, using the formula for kinetic energy, you have:

3 Megatons = 1/2*m*(8.2 miles/sec)^2

converting to CGS units (because I'm an indoctrinated Astronomer), you have roughly

1.25x10^23 ergs = 1/2*m*1319662.08
cm/s

(1 Megaton = 4.18x10^22 ergs, 1 erg = 1 g*cm/s)

m = ~1.89x10^17 g or ~4.18x10^14 lbs

So, roughly 2.1 Trillion tons.

RE: wth
By Goty on 12/27/2007 1:23:20 AM , Rating: 2
Sorry, bad decimal carrying there, that should eb .21 Trillion tons.

RE: wth
By ThePooBurner on 12/27/2007 1:38:44 AM , Rating: 2
I was going to say. 2.1 trillion sounded like alot for an astroid only 75' across. Someone further down noted that this was on another news site the other day. I read about it then and it gave the size of the roid at ~75'. They expect it to retain a lot of it's size due to the difference in atmosphere compared to the earth's, which would shrink it more as it burned through.

RE: wth
By Souka on 12/27/2007 11:56:17 AM , Rating: 2
so a 75' hunk of rock(?) weighs

4,200,000,000,000 lbs? Seems mighty heavy to me.....

RE: wth
By uutorok on 12/27/2007 4:49:25 AM , Rating: 2
Error occured when you calculated v^2.
It should weigh about 137,000 tons, one thousand times less than your 210,000,000 tons.

RE: wth
By uutorok on 12/27/2007 4:50:31 AM , Rating: 2
Error occured when you calculated v^2.
It should weigh about 137,000 tons, one million times less than your 210,000,000,000 tons.

RE: wth
By Goty on 12/27/2007 10:30:59 AM , Rating: 2
Yep, you're right, I dropped the square. Should be about 1.44x10^11 grams, or about 158,000 tons.

RE: wth
By chaos386 on 12/27/2007 1:22:34 AM , Rating: 2
The "3 megaton" rating just means it'll create an explosion equivalent to 3 million tons of TNT.

RE: wth
By Debby on 12/27/2007 3:37:29 AM , Rating: 2
To put this into perspective Hiroshima and Nagasaki were only 20 kiloton bombs or 0.2 megatons. This one will be 15 times as big as those but still much smaller than what happened in Tunguska, Siberia in 1908 which was 15 megatons.

RE: wth
By qdemn7 on 12/27/2007 4:59:23 AM , Rating: 2
Heinlein stated in "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" that the impact of 100 metric ton mass at 11/kps would be equivalent to 2 kilotons of TNT.

As an aside, a 100 ton mass would be about 13 ft / 4 meters in diameter. One roughly 75 ft / 23 meters in diameter would be 20,000 tons.

RE: wth
By maverick85wd on 12/27/2007 6:43:01 AM , Rating: 2
20 kilotons is .02 megatons, not .2

through me off for a second

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