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Wed Feb 27, 2013, 12:48 PM

Is a Comet on a Collision Course with Mars?

There is an outside chance that a newly discovered comet might be on a collision course with Mars. Astronomers are still determining the trajectory of the comet, named C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring), but at the very least, it is going to come fairly close to the Red Planet in October of 2014. “Even if it doesn’t impact it will look pretty good from Earth, and spectacular from Mars,” wrote Australian amateur astronomer Ian Musgrave, “probably a magnitude -4 comet as seen from Mars’s surface.”

The comet was discovered in the beginning of 2013 by comet-hunter Robert McNaught at the Siding Spring Observatory in New South Wales, Australia. According to a discussion on the IceInSpace amateur astronomy forum when the discovery was initially made, astronomers at the Catalina Sky Survey in Arizona looked back over their observations to find “prerecovery” images of the comet dating back to Dec. 8, 2012. These observations placed the orbital trajectory of comet C/2013 A1 right through Mars orbit on Oct. 19, 2014.

However, now after 74 days of observations, comet specialist Leonid Elenin notes that current calculations put the closest approach of the comet at a distance of 109,200 km, or 0.00073 AU from Mars in October 2014. That close pass has many wondering if any of the Mars orbiters might be able to acquire high-resolution images of the comet as is passes by.

But as Ian O’Neill from Discovery Space points out, since the comet has only been observed for 74 days (so far), so it’s difficult for astronomers to forecast the comet’s precise location in 20 months time. “Comet C/2013 A1 may fly past at a very safe distance of 0.008 AU (650,000 miles),” Ian wrote, “but to the other extreme, its orbital pass could put Mars directly in its path. At time of Mars close approach (or impact), the comet will be barreling along at a breakneck speed of 35 miles per second (126,000 miles per hour).”

Elenin said that since C/2013 A1 is a hyperbolic comet and moves in a retrograde orbit, its velocity with respect to the planet will be very high, approximately 56 km/s. “With the current estimate of the absolute magnitude of the nucleus M2 = 10.3, which might indicate the diameter up to 50 km, the energy of impact might reach the equivalent of staggering 2×10¹º megatons!”

An impact of this magnitude would leave a crater 500 km across and 2 km deep, Elenin said.


Read more: http://www.universetoday.com/100298/is-a-comet-on-a-collision-course-with-mars/

That would put the rovers to the test....

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Reply Is a Comet on a Collision Course with Mars? (Original post)
n2doc Feb 2013 OP
leveymg Feb 2013 #1
arcane1 Feb 2013 #2
intaglio Feb 2013 #3
morningfog Feb 2013 #4
formercia Feb 2013 #5

Response to n2doc (Original post)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 01:03 PM

1. So much for the idea of life on Mars. Can we get a rescue mission for Bigfoot and Elvis there in

time?

The world waits with baited breath . . .

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Response to n2doc (Original post)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 01:11 PM

2. I must admit, that would be quite cool

Devastating, but cool

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Response to n2doc (Original post)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 02:03 PM

3. It might put Mars into one of its periodic warm periods

IF it hits

H'mmmm ...

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Response to n2doc (Original post)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 02:39 PM

4. This is very exciting. I hope they can capture some great images of the comet and/or impact,

if it hits.

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Response to n2doc (Original post)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 02:45 PM

5. I wonder if it will rain

If the comet is made of Ice.

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