The asteroid, which was discovered by the US space agency’s Near Earth Object Program (NEOP), is considered to be of no threat to Earth. Despite this, the asteroid has been put on a “watch list”, as it is a member of an interesting class of small objects that are both near-Earth objects and “Mars crossers.”
NEOP scientists say that the asteroid’s exact course is difficult to predict, but there is a chance it will crash into Mars on January 30th, producing a crater 1 kilometer in diameter. The impact itself could release over three megatons of energy and is comparable to the Tunguska event of 1908 in Siberia, Russia. Unlike the Tunguska event, where the impacting object was disintegrated before it hit the Earth, Mars’ atmosphere is much thinner and therefore it is likeier that the asteroid will hit the planet’s surface.
The asteroid’s path will be watched carefully over the next few weeks, so as to better predict its exact route.
TFOT recently reported on a team of Italian scientists from the University of Bologna, who identified a lake in the Tunguska region in Siberia as the possible impact crater from the 1908 Tunguska event. This impact caused an explosion 1,000 times more powerful than the nuclear explosion over Hiroshima, Japan. In 2007, TFOT also reported on a rather bizarre space-related incident in Lake Titicaca, Peru. Locals rushed in the direction of a loud explosion and found that a large crater had formed in the ground close to Lake Titicaca. The crater, 41 feet in diameter and 16 feet deep, was filled with water. Soon after the explosion, many of the villagers reported symptoms such as headaches and nausea. It was not clear whether this was the first recorded incident of space based disease or a case of toxic fumes.
More about the asteroid can be found on NASA’s website.