January 9, 2008

Asteroid Impact on Mars Said Less Likely

An impact with Mars by an approaching asteroid is now believed by scientists to be less likely than before. New estimates of the asteroid's orbit were made using observations from a telescope at the Calar Alto Observatory in Spain, according to the Near-Earth Object Program at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

The probability of impact was reduced to 2.5 percent reported in a January 8 update posted on the NEO website. The distance it is believed to miss Mars by is about 18,600 miles.

Dubbed 2007 WD5, the asteroid was discovered in late November by the NASA-funded Catalina Sky Survey in Arizona.

Scientists were initially excited about the possible impact of the asteroid with the Red Planet. The asteroid, about the size of a football field, could have left a half-mile-wide crater in the Martian surface.

The NEO program looks for and tracks asteroids and comets that could potentially be a hazard to Earth.