When I first started this blog, about a month ago, I was pretty psyched about the possibility of an asteroid hitting Mars, perhaps right in front of one of the Mars rovers, giving us all a front row seat for the collision. Odds were at 1-in-75, then jumped up to 1-in-25, then down to 1-in-40, then, sadly, 1-in-10,000.
Turns out that it probably didn't crash into Mars.
Where is it now? No one knows.
The thing (it's in the little red circle in the middle of the picture) has been slingshotted by Martian gravity straight into the unknown (I can relate), and while Mars doesn't have enough gravitational muscle to sling it clear out of the solar system, it does have enough of an effect to seriously warp its orbit. So now it's adrift, untethered from its previous influences, and will slowly accumulate new influences, settling finally into a new orbit: stable, but very different. There are way too many variables for astronomers to calculate the new path.
Again, metaphors abound with this orbital mechanics stuff, which is why I like to write about it. And I won't belabor the metaphor, other than to say that I find the whole process oddly comforting; some random rock being wrenched out of a stable and comfortable orbit, thrust into a whole new family of gravitational influences, where, given enough time, it will settle into stability again. No collisions, nothing spilled. Just another trip into the unknown. Until gradually the unknown becomes, well, known.
I like that.