2007 WD5: Wikis


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2007 WD5
Discovery A
Discoverer Andrea Boattini
Discovery date November 20, 2007
Category Apollo asteroid,
Mars-crosser asteroid
Orbital elements C
Epoch April 10, 2007
Eccentricity (e) 0.60245
Semi-major axis (a) 2.541 AU
Perihelion (q) 1.01016 AU
Aphelion (Q) 4.072 AU
Orbital period (P) 1479 days
Mean orbital speed 27,900 miles per hour[1]
Inclination (i) 2.371°
Longitude of the
ascending node
Argument of
Mean anomaly (M) 313.4°
Physical characteristics D
Diameter 50 m (160 ft)[2] H
Mass  ? × 109 kg
Density  ? g/cm³
Surface gravity  ? m/s²
Escape velocity  ? km/s
Rotation period  ? d
Spectral class  ?
Absolute magnitude 24.308
Albedo (geometric)  ?
Mean surface
 ? K

2007 WD5 is a 50 m (160 ft) diameter Apollo class[3] Near-Earth object and a Mars-crosser asteroid discovered on November 20, 2007 by Andrea Boattini of the Catalina Sky Survey. Early observations of 2007 WD5 caused excitement amongst the scientific community when it was estimated as having as high as a 1 in 25 chance of colliding with Mars on January 30, 2008.[4] However, by January 9, 2008 additional observations allowed NASA's Near Earth Object Program (NEOP) to reduce the uncertainty region resulting in only a 1-in-10,000 chance of impact.[5] 2007 WD5 most likely passed Mars at a distance of 6.5 Mars radii. Due to this relatively small distance and the uncertainty level of the prior observations, the gravitational effects of Mars on its trajectory are unknown and, according to Steven Chesley of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory Near Earth Object program, 2007 WD5 is currently considered 'lost' (see lost asteroids).[6]



The asteroid was discovered on November 20, 2007 by Andrea Boattini[7] of the NASA-funded Catalina Sky Survey on Mount Lemmon, near Tucson, Arizona, USA, using a 1.5m telescope.[2] It was discovered in the constellation Taurus at an apparent magnitude of +20. This is about 400,000 times fainter than most people can see with the naked eye on a dark night far from city lights.[7] It was discovered nineteen days after passing near the Earth. By the time it arrived at Mars it had an apparent magnitude of roughly +26 and appeared over 100x fainter than at the time of discovery.[8]

January 2008 Mars encounter - chance of impact


Timeline of observations and events

  • November 1, 2007: Nineteen days before its discovery, this small asteroid passed within 7.5 million km (5 million miles or 0.0476 AU) of the Earth.[2]
  • December 21, 2007: 2007 WD5 was approximately half way between Earth and Mars traveling at 27,900 mph (44,900 km/h). It was estimated by NASA's Near Earth Object Program (NEOP) to have a 1-in-25 chance of colliding with Mars on January 30, 2008 at approximately 10:55 UT.[2] It was thought it would pass about 50,000 km (0.00034AU) from Mars.
  • December 28, 2007: NASA scientists at the Near-Earth Object program office at JPL announced they had found 2007 WD5 in 3 precovery images from November 8, 2007. The refined orbit placed the odds of a Mars impact at 1-in-25. The uncertainty region was reduced from 1 million km to roughly 400,000 km.[4] The best fit trajectory had the asteroid passing within 21,000 km of Mars and only 16,000 km from the moon Deimos.[9] The pre-discovery observations were located by Andy Puckett in the archive of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey II at the Apache Point Observatory.
  • January 2, 2008: NASA scientists revised the probability of an impact with Mars to 1-in-28 after more observations were reported by Bill Ryan with the 2.4 meter telescope at New Mexico Tech's Magdalena Ridge Observatory. The uncertainty region was reduced to roughly 200,000 km and still intersected Mars, but the most likely path moved a little farther away from the planet.[10]
  • January 8, 2008: NASA scientists revised the probability of an impact with Mars to 1-in-40 after refinements to the Sloan precovery observations and observations with the 3.5 meter telescope at the Calar Alto Observatory in Spain. The uncertainty region was reduced by a factor of 3.[11]
  • January 9, 2008: Following several new observations NASA reduced the uncertainty region and effectively ruled out a Mars collision. The chance of collision became only 1-in-10,000 (0.01%).[5] The best estimate was that around 12:00 UTC the asteroid passed about 26,000 km (0.00017AU)[12] from the planet's center (about 7 Mars radii from the surface). Analyses show there is no possibility of an impact with either Mars or Earth in the next century.

This trend of increasing probability of impact followed by a dramatic decrease is typical as uncertainties are gradually reduced.[5] In December 2004, a similar trend was observed with 99942 Apophis where the predicted probability of impact with Earth in 2029 at one point reached as high as 2.7%.

NASA Animation showing the motion of the uncertainty region of 2007 WD5 as it approaches Mars. The thin white line is the orbit of Mars. The blue line traces the motion of the center of the uncertainty region, which is the most likely position of the asteroid. Orbital data as known on December 21, 2007

Estimates of resulting impact

Track of asteroid 2007 WD5 over Mars (NASA/JPL)

If the asteroid had collided with Mars, it would have hit with a velocity of about 13.5 km/s (8.4 miles per second), and would have produced an explosion equivalent to about 3 megatons of TNT.[2] Due to the thin atmosphere of Mars, it was predicted that the asteroid would have reached the surface intact and blasted out a crater approximately 0.8 km (0.5 mi) in diameter.[13] A crater this size would be equal to the size of the Meteor Crater in Arizona, USA. NASA officials say if it had hit Mars, it would have done so north of the location of the Opportunity rover.[7]

2007 WD5 is roughly the size of the cometary object that caused the Tunguska event in 1908, in remote central Siberia, Russia. Due to the Earth's greater gravity an impact with the power of Tunguska is expected to occur once every few hundred years.[14] Since Mars has only 1/10th the mass to attract objects, these types of impacts occur roughly every one thousand years on Mars.[1]

Future encounters

In July 2003, the asteroid passed within 0.012AU of Mars.[12] The exact fate of 2007 WD5 following the January 2008 Mars encounter is unknown although it is most likely that it safely passed the planet at a distance of 6.5 Mars radii. Mars, unlike Jupiter, is not big enough to eject the asteroid from the solar system, however, the gravitation effect from the encounter on the asteroid's trajectory is uncertain and the asteroid is currently considered 'lost'.[6] Assuming 2007 WD5 passed Mars safely, its low inclination to the Ecliptic of only 2.3 degrees and high eccentricity of 0.6 could cause it to swing close to Mars or Earth for years or decades into the future.

See also


  1. ^ a b "Astronomers Monitor Asteroid to Pass Near Mars". NASA/JPL. 2007-12-21. http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2007-152. Retrieved 2007-12-22.  
  2. ^ a b c d e Steve Chesley and Paul Chodas (December 21, 2007). "Recently Discovered Asteroid Could Hit Mars in January". NASA/JPL Near-Earth Object Program Office. http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news151.html. Retrieved 2007-12-21.  
  3. ^ "JPL Small-Body Database Browser: 2007WD5". http://ssd.jpl.nasa.gov/sbdb.cgi?sstr=2007wd5. Retrieved 2008-01-12.  
  4. ^ a b Don Yeomans, Paul Chodas and Steve Chesley (December 28, 2007). "Mars Impact Probability Increases to 4 Percent". NASA/JPL Near-Earth Object Program Office. http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news153.html. Retrieved 2007-12-28.  
  5. ^ a b c Steve Chesley, Paul Chodas and Don Yeomans (January 9, 2008). "2007 WD5 Mars Collision Effectively Ruled Out - Impact Odds now 1 in 10,000". NASA/JPL Near-Earth Object Program Office. http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news156.html. Retrieved 2008-01-09.  
  6. ^ a b Lakdawalla, Emily (February 4, 2008). "WD5 most likely missed Mars, but we may never know". http://www.planetary.org/blog/article/00001316/. Retrieved 2008-02-24.  
  7. ^ a b c d Lori Stiles, University Communications (December 21, 2007). "Catalina Sky Survey Discovers Space Rock That Could Hit Mars". The University of Arizona. http://uanews.org/node/17415. Retrieved 2007-12-23.  
  8. ^ Horizons Brightness Difference between 11-20-07 and 01-30-08: (5th root of 100) ^ (@marsJan30th APmag 25.9 - DiscoveryNov20th APmag 20.2) = 190x
  9. ^ "Horizons Archive Mars/Earth 2003/2008". http://home.comcast.net/~kpheider/2007WD5.txt. Retrieved 2007-12-23.   (Soln.date: 2007-Dec-23)
  10. ^ Don Yeomans, Paul Chodas and Steve Chesley (January 2, 2008). "New Observations Slightly Decrease Mars Impact Probability". NASA/JPL Near-Earth Object Program Office. http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news154.html. Retrieved 2008-01-02.  
  11. ^ Steve Chesley, Paul Chodas and Don Yeomans (January 8, 2008). "Mars Impact Seems Less Likely". NASA/JPL Near-Earth Object Program Office. http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news155.html. Retrieved 2008-01-08.  
  12. ^ a b "Horizons Output Mars/Earth 2003/2008". http://home.comcast.net/~kpheider/2007WD5-0109.txt. Retrieved 2008-01-09.   (Soln.date: 2008-Jan-09)
  13. ^ Johnson Jr., John (2007-12-21). "Asteroid on track for possible Mars hit". Science (Los Angeles Times). http://www.latimes.com/news/science/la-sci-mars21dec21,0,6729483.story?coll=la-home-center. Retrieved 2007-12-21.  
  14. ^ David Morrison (2007-12-21). "Tunguska Revision, and a Possible NEA Impact on Mars". Asteroid and Comet Impact Hazards (NASA). http://impact.arc.nasa.gov/news_detail.cfm?ID=179. Retrieved 2008-01-03.  

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