Last week, Russians woke up to a spectacular but dangerous light show as a meteor raced across the sky. Luckily, no one was killed, though nearly a thousand people were injured as windows were blown out by the shockwave. That same day, an asteroid called “2012 DA14” cruised past the Earth on its way through our solar system. These cosmic events happen all the time to other planets, and we’re just lucky we haven’t been hit with a big one in a long time. But our red neighbor, Mars, may be in the bullseye of a comet next year
As reported by io9, astronomers are predicting a comet called “C/2013 A1” may be in danger of colliding with Mars. Robert McNaught at the Siding Spring Observatory in New South Wales, Australia, discovered the comet on January 3rd. Astronomers at the Catalina Sky Survey in Arizona have predicted the orbital trajectory will flyby Mars on October 19, 2014. Although the astronomers think the threat of impact might be low, as new data emerges, the possibility of it colliding with Mars could increase.
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has also calculated C/2013 A1’s likelihood to crash into Mars, and they suggest that it may get as close as 0.0007 AU (about 63,000 miles from the surface of Mars). That’s awfully close! The approximate distance can still vary from now to October 2014. Astronomers have only been observing C/2013 A1 for 76 days, so it’s hard to tell if it will collide with or move away from the Red Planet. At the moment, it could go either way.
If it does simply pass by, then Curiosity, along with other surrounding satellites, should capture some amazing imagery of the comet.
Read more about C/2013 at Discovery News.