A recently discovered comet will make an uncomfortably-close planetary flyby next year – but this time it’s not Earth that’s in the cosmic crosshairs.
According to preliminary orbital prediction models, comet C/2013 A1 will buzz Mars on Oct. 19, 2014.
The icy interloper is thought to originate from the Oort Cloud – a hypothetical region surrounding the solar system containing countless billions of cometary nuclei that were outcast from the primordial solar system billions of years ago.
We know that the planets have been hit by comets before (re: the massive Comet Shoemaker – Levy 9 that crashed into Jupiter in 1994) and Mars, in particular, will have been hit by comets in the past.
It’s believed Earth’s oceans were created by water delivered by comets – cometary impacts are an inevitable part of living in this cosmic ecosystem.
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.
Could the Red Planet be in for a potentially huge impact next year?
Will Mars rovers Curiosity and Opportunity be in danger of becoming scrap metal?