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Mars Science

Comet C/2013 A1 May Hit Mars In 2014 150

Posted by samzenpus
from the big-boom dept.
astroengine writes "According to preliminary orbital prediction models, comet C/2013 A1 will buzz Mars on Oct. 19, 2014. C/2013 A1 was discovered by ace comet-hunter Robert McNaught at the Siding Spring Observatory in New South Wales, Australia, on Jan. 3. When the discovery was 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 through Mars orbit on Oct. 19, 2014. Due to uncertainties in the observations — 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). But to the other extreme, its orbital pass could put Mars directly in its path."
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Comet C/2013 A1 May Hit Mars In 2014

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  • Re:Curiosity (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Clomer (644284) on Monday February 25, 2013 @05:49PM (#43009107)
    If it hits, Opportunity is hosed no matter what. The comet will kick up such a dust cloud that Opportunity's solar panels will not be able to keep it powered. The comet is big enough that it will have a direct effect on the entire planet.

    Curiosity, on the other hand, would do fine unless it is unlucky enough to be caught within the blast radius. Note that even if they know now exactly where it will hit, if Curiosity is within the dead zone, they wouldn't be able to do anything about it - it can't move anywhere near fast enough to get out of the way when faced with something this big. The best we'd be able to hope for is that it would be able to get some spectacular shots of the final approach and is able to transmit them fast enough before the end.

    That said, assuming it does survive the initial blast (pretty good odds, actually, given just how big a planet really is), having a functional probe on the ground would provide invaluable data about the resulting dust cloud and how it affects the climate.
  • Don't bet on it (Score:4, Insightful)

    by goodmanj (234846) on Monday February 25, 2013 @06:42PM (#43009655)

    If the distance uncertainty is 650,000 miles, the odds of this comet hitting Mars are *at best* 1 in 300, possibly up to 1 in 100,000 (depending on the shape of the comet's uncertainty ellipse, which is not mentioned in TFA.)

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