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Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Comet has Mars impact risk in October 2014

Painting of impact on Mars surface by Don Dixon.
The latest trajectory of comet 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.
 
At present, Mars lies within the range of possible paths for the comet and the possibility of an impact cannot be excluded, according to NASA. Observations made by Leonid Elenin, a reputable Russian astronomer who works at the Keldysh Institute of Applied Mathematics, suggested that the comet could pass even closer — just 25,700 miles (41,300 km) from the center of Mars.
 
IF a collision of the comet Siding Spring were to occur on 19 October 2014, moving at 35 miles (56 km) per second, such a impact could potentially create an impact crater on the Marian surface up to 10 times the diameter of the comet's nucleus and up to 1.25 miles (2 km) deep, with an energy equivalent up to of 2 x 10^10 megatons. BIG BOOM.
 
The nucleus size is not well known, but may be as small as 15 kilometers (9 miles) or as big as 50 km (30 miles).
 
Phil Plait has looked at the possibility of a comet-Mars impact in a recent article on Slate, while Emily Lakdawalla has pondered the thought of meteor showers resulting from a comet flyby of Mars in greater depth at The Planetary Society blog.

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