Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas

Today it's Christmas eve. Receive the warmest regards from the "staff" of this blog. On this day, 39 years ago the crew of Apollo 8 entered into orbit around Moon, so this is also an special day for space exploration. Not only that, maybe there is a quite special gift under the tree this year: 2007 WD5.

2007 WD5 is an asteroid that will cross Mars orbital path in January 30. There is some chance (around 1 in 75) that it will impact Mars! This asteroid is around 50 meters wide and might create a half-mile wide impact crater. Despite this event is rather unlikely it will cast some serious fireworks in case it happens.

This is the orbital path of 2007 WD5, you can clearly see that it intercepts Mars orbit. The uncertainties in the measurement of 2007 WD5 path don't allow us to assure a collision will happen, actually it's quite unlikely it will occur. In a few days we will have more data.

Update: This asteroid has been recently identified in archival imagery, this has allowed astronomers to refine the orbital parameters, now the odds of a collision are of 1 in 25! Still a rather meager chance (4%), but we still need more data for a more accurate prediction.


Anonymous said...

Wow, it would be great to observe the impact. An ignorant question: are there any probes orbiting Mars which could provide data on the impact, or would it be observed remotely from Earth? (Also: please do post an update once a better prediction becomes available.)

Luis Sanchez said...

There are actually several probes orbiting Mars! The most remarkable ones are the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and ESA's Mars Express.

Regarding observations from Earth it is quite complicated to say at this moment what are the chances, mostly because we need to know if the impact will happen in the observable side of Mars at the time of impact and that requires a better determination of orbital parameters.