According to a Tuesday, January 8, 2008, news report (“Mars Impact Seems Less Likely”) by researchers at the NASA Near Earth Object (NEO) Program, the orbit of the asteroid has been more accurately predicted with the use of the 3.5-meter telescope at the Calar Alto Observatory in Spain.
The NEO Program is part of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
Astronomers studying the asteroid 2007 WD5 now state that it has only a 1-in-40 chance (2.5%) of impacting Mars on January 30, 2008. And, they say that future updates on the path of the asteroid should further reduce the chance of it hitting Mars.
This latest information is good for Mars, but bad for Earth astronomers who were hoping to study the collision of the asteroid onto the surface of Mars. They were hoping to learn more about what happens when asteroids and other space objects hit rocky planets like Mars and Earth.
Whatever happens, three spacecraft orbiting Mars and two rovers (Spirit and Opportunity) on the surface of the planet will be likely observing the asteroid as it passes very close to Mars.
Other iTWire articles on the possible-but-unlikely collision of asteroid 2007 WD5 and Mars include:
January 4, 2008: “Update on asteroid hitting Mars: Now 1-in-28”
December 30, 2007: “Possibility of asteroid hitting Mars upped to 1 out of 25”
December 22, 2007: “Place your bets: Will asteroid hit Mars in January?”