Comet to make close flyby of Mars in October 2014

Mar 05, 2013
This computer graphic depicts the orbit of comet 2013 A1 (Siding Spring) through the inner solar system. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

(Phys.org) —Comet 2013 A1 (Siding Spring) will make a very close approach to Mars in October 2014.

The latest trajectory of 2013 A1 (Siding Spring) generated by the Near-Earth Object Program Office at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., indicates the comet will pass within 186,000 miles (300,000 kilometers) of Mars and there is a strong possibility that it might pass much closer. The NEO Program Office's current estimate based on observations through March 1, 2013, has it passing about 31,000 miles (50,000 kilometers) from the 's surface. That distance is about two-and-a-half times that of the orbit of outermost moon, Deimos.

Scientists generated the trajectory for comet Siding Spring based on the data obtained by observations since October 2012. Further refinement to its orbit is expected as more is obtained. At present, Mars lies within the range of possible paths for the comet and the possibility of an impact cannot be excluded. However, since the impact probability is currently less than one in 600, future observations are expected to provide data that will completely rule out a Mars impact.

During the close Mars approach the comet will likely achieve a total visual magnitude of zero or brighter, as seen from -based assets. From Earth, the comet is not expected to reach naked eye brightness, but it may become bright enough (about magnitude 8) that it could be viewed from the in mid-September 2014, using binoculars, or small telescopes.

Scientists at the Near-Earth Object Program Office estimate that comet Siding Spring has been on a more than a million-year journey, arriving from our solar system's distant Oort cloud. The comet could be complete with the volatile gases that short period comets often lack due to their frequent returns to the sun's neighborhood.

Rob McNaught discovered comet 2013 A1 Siding Spring on Jan. 3, 2013, at Siding Spring Observatory in Australia. A study of germane archival observations has unearthed more images of the comet, extending the observation interval back to Oct. 4, 2012.

detects, tracks and characterizes asteroids and comets passing close to Earth using both ground- and space-based telescopes. The Near-Earth Object Observations Program, commonly called "Spaceguard," discovers these objects, characterizes a subset of them, and plots their orbits to determine if any could be potentially hazardous to our planet.

Explore further: Lockheed Martin successfully mates NOAA GOES-R satellite modules

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Is a comet on a collision course with Mars?

Feb 27, 2013

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 ...

Comet Elenin: Preview of a coming attraction

May 05, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- You may have heard the news: Comet Elenin is coming to the inner-solar system this fall. Comet Elenin (also known by its astronomical name C/2010 X1), was first detected on Dec. 10, 2010 by ...

The great cometary show

Jan 19, 2007

Comet McNaught, the Great Comet of 2007, is no more visible for observers in the Northern Hemisphere. It does put an impressive show in the South, however, and observers in Chile, in particular at the Paranal ...

Asteroid 2011 AG5 - A reality check

Feb 29, 2012

(PhysOrg.com) -- Asteroid 2011 AG5 has been receiving a lot of attention lately because of a very unlikely scenario which would place it on an Earth-interception course 28 years from now.  Here is a scientific ...

Recommended for you

Winter in the southern uplands of Mars

9 hours ago

Over billions of years, the southern uplands of Mars have been pockmarked by numerous impact features, which are often so closely packed that they overlap. One such feature is Hooke crater, shown in this ...

Five facts about NASA's ISS-RapidScat

9 hours ago

NASA's ISS-RapidScat mission will observe ocean wind speed and direction over most of the globe, bringing a new eye on tropical storms, hurricanes and typhoons. Here are five fast facts about the mission.

User comments : 3

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

flashgordon
not rated yet Mar 05, 2013
300K is of course earth/moon distance!
Maggnus
not rated yet Mar 05, 2013
It would be a hell of a sight if it actually hit Mars.
DavidW
1 / 5 (1) Mar 06, 2013