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Mars Science

Comet C/2013 A1 May Hit Mars In 2014 150

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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  • by Longjmp ( 632577 ) on Monday February 25, 2013 @05:52PM (#43008427)
    The pyromaniac in me really wants to watch the impact ;)

    A little caveat and a more serious note:
    A (very) quick search didn't show anything about the estimated mass of C/2013 A1, so possibly some debris might hit earth later.

    But hey, maybe I want to watch that too!
  • by K. S. Kyosuke ( 729550 ) on Monday February 25, 2013 @07:12PM (#43009369)

    The one spot it ends up landing happens to be on the multi million dollar mars rover. That would be something.

    Well, I hope it won't, because if it hits, it might make for some really interesting changes in weather for the (surviving) rover to observe:

    With the current estimate of the absolute magnitude of the nucleus M2 = 10.3, which might indicate the diameter of over 50 km, the energy of impact might reach the equivalent of staggering 2×10 megatonnes! This kind of event can leave a crater 500 km across and 2 km deep. (link [spaceobs.org])

    But it's quite sure to say that witnessing such impact is just wishful thinking.

  • by Kittenman ( 971447 ) on Monday February 25, 2013 @08:17PM (#43009985)
    Maybe not. I've been watching Carl Sagan's "Cosmos" and one of the episodes (Harmony of the Worlds) covers a cometary hit on the moon in the 12th century, seen by a bunch of English monks in Canterbury.

    Must be out there somewhere and here you go... from Wikipedia...
    Five monks from Canterbury reported to the abbey's chronicler, Gervase, that shortly after sunset on June 18, 1178, (25 June on the proleptic Gregorian calendar) they saw "the upper horn [of the moon] split in two." Furthermore, Gervase writes, "From the midpoint of the division a flaming torch sprang up, spewing out, over a considerable distance, fire, hot coals and sparks. Meanwhile the body of the Moon which was below writhed, as it were in anxiety, and to put it in the words of those who reported it to me and saw it with their own eyes, the Moon throbbed like a wounded snake. Afterwards it resumed its proper state. This phenomenon was repeated a dozen times or more, the flame assuming various twisting shapes at random and then returning to normal. Then, after these transformations, the Moon from horn to horn, that is along its whole length, took on a blackish appearance"
  • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Monday February 25, 2013 @09:53PM (#43010679) Homepage Journal

    Well, maybe not invalidate, but we're on a Mars science roll. A few more years of baseline data would be nice, and make the whole before/after picture that much more meaningful.

    In particular the MAVEN mission is supposed to study the evolution of the Martian atmosphere, and it's scheduled to be in Mars orbit just 27 days before the possible comet strike. I don't know what a humongous comet strike will do to the research plans. Probably they'd get some interesting information about the aftermath, but it would have been even cooler if the mission had collected a few months of baseline data.

  • by QuantumPion ( 805098 ) on Tuesday February 26, 2013 @10:10AM (#43013613)

    Is there any possible a close encounter to Mars that might cause C/2013A1 to act as if it were orbiting mars, (at least for half a rev duration of that single pass)? And if so, just how much can Mars deflect the orbit of C/2013A1 from what it might have been for centuries?

    It is not possible for an object orbiting the sun to become captured by the orbit of a planet, due to conservation of energy. The only way an object can be captured is by either using rockets or aerobraking. However aerobraking alone does not produce a stable orbit since its orbit would continually decay each time it passed through the atmosphere. In order to aerocapture you have to slow down through the atmosphere and then apply thrust at apoapsis to raise the periapsis out of the atmosphere.

"I have not the slightest confidence in 'spiritual manifestations.'" -- Robert G. Ingersoll