Planetary misses

Next week two asteroids will be making fairly close approaches to planets Earth and Mars. First up on 29th January 2008 at 08:33 UT asteroid 2007 TU24 will pass a mere 537,000 km (334,000 miles) from the Earth. In astronomical terms that is quite a close shave but it is still 1.4 times the distance of the Moon so nothing at all to worry about. It will be magnitude 10.3 so well below what I can see from Manchester. According to the Near Earth Object Program it is between 150 and 600 m in diameter and we could expect an object of this size passing this close every five years or so.

Space may be big and very nearly completely empty of matter but a day later on 30th January 2008 at around 12:00 UT asteroid 2007 WD5 (I keep thinking of the popular lubricant WD40) will pass by Mars. This asteroid which is only about 50 m across made the news when the probability of it hitting Mars reached as high as 1 in 25. The odds are calculated given how accurately we know the orbit. Just after discovery we don't very much about an object's position or velocity and more observations are needed (unless you're in a Hollywood movie in which case you only need one image). As more data has come in the odds have gone down to 1 in 10,000. However, it will pass at about 7 Mars radii above the surface of the planet - very close indeed. I don't know if Spirit, Opportunity, Mars Express, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will be watching. I hope they do.

Posted in astro blog by Stuart on Thursday 24th Jan 2008 (22:03 GMT) | Permalink
[an error occurred while processing this directive]
[an error occurred while processing this directive]