Mars escapes!

It looks like Mars will avoid a collision with the asteroid 2007 WD5 after all. Astronomers have been paying close attention to the asteroid since it’s discovery in November last year, and the increasingly high impact probability, but further observations have removed more of those uncertainities and brought the odds of a collision down to 0.01% or 1 in 10,000 – effectively ruling out the possibility of a collision. There’s an informative animated gif of how those odds tumbled over time here.

And those wondrous telescopes managed to capture an image of the 50m wide asteroid.

Image of 2007 WD5 from the University of Hawaii 2.2-meter telescope on Mauna Kea, Hawaii. The circled dot is the asteroid. Other dots are artifacts from cosmic rays. The stars are trailed because the telescope is tracking the asteroid as it moves among the stars. (Credit: Tholen, Bernardi, Micheli with support from the National Science Foundation).

According to the NASA press release

Our best estimate now is that 2007 WD5 will pass about 26,000 km from the planet’s center (about 7 Mars radii from the surface) at around 12:00 UTC (4:00 am PST) on Jan. 30th. With 99.7% confidence, the pass should be no closer than 4000 km from the surface.

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