A newfound comet is apparently on course to have an exceedingly close call with the planet Mars in October 2014, and there is a chance — albeit small — that the comet may even collide with the Red Planet.
…When it was discovered, Comet Siding Spring was 669 million miles (1.07 billion kilometers) from the sun. Based on its orbital eccentricity, it is apparently a new or “virgin” comet, traveling in a parabolic orbit and making its very first visit to the vicinity of the sun. It is expected to pass closest to the sun (called perihelion) on Oct. 25, 2014 at a distance of 130 million miles (209 million km).
But, less than a week earlier, on Oct. 19, 2014, the comet — whose nucleus is estimated to be anywhere from 5 to 30 miles (8 to 50 km) in diameter — is projected to cross the orbit of Mars and pass very close to that planet. Preliminary calculations suggest that nominally at closest approach, Comet Siding Spring will come to within 63,000 miles (101,000 km) of Mars.
However, because the comet is currently very far out in space and has been under scrutiny for less than three months, … its orbit will likely need to be refined in the coming weeks and months. As such, the comet’s approach to Mars might ultimately end up being farther or closer than what current predictions suggest. In fact, last Wednesday observations made by Leonid Elenin, …suggested that the comet could pass even closer — just 25,700 miles (41,300 km) from the center of Mars.
According to Elenin: “On the 19th October 2014, the comet might reach apparent magnitude of -8 to -8.5, as seen from Mars!” (This would make the comet 15 to 25 times brighter than Venus). “Perhaps it will be possible to acquire high-resolution images from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO),” he added.
Then there is also the small possibility that the comet could collide with Mars.
Moving at 35 miles (56 km) per second, such a collision could create an impact crater on Mars up to 10 times the diameter of the comet’s nucleus and up to 1.25 miles (2 km) deep… >continue<