Friday, January 04, 2008

One in 28 chance to hit Mars

Now Asteroid 2007WD5 has a one in twenty eight chance to hit Mars. Wow! From here.
Observations of the asteroid between Dec. 29 and Jan. 2 allowed astronomers to slightly lower the space rock's odds of striking Mars to about 3.6 percent (down from 3.9), giving the object a 1 in 28 chance of hitting the planet, according to Tuesday report from NASA's Near Earth-Object program office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

More observations may further reduce the asteroid's impact chances to nil, NEO officials said. The space rock's refined course stems from observations by astronomers at New Mexico Tech's Magdalena Ridge Observatory.

But if WD5 does smack into Mars, some astronomers have a fair idea of what havoc it may spawn. The likely strike zone would be near the equator, but to the north of the current position of NASA's Opportunity rover at Victoria Crater, NASA officials have said.

Mark Boslough, a collision dynamics expert at New Mexico's Sandia National Laboratory, said the atmosphere at Mars' surface is similar to that of Earth at an altitude of 12 miles (20 km). Some space rocks that target Earth explode under the pressure created as they stream into our atmosphere. But they tend not to explode until much below the 12-mile mark.

Opportunity will be a in a great place to view the impact on January 30th. More updates as the NEO team updates its observations.

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