Comet will give Mars a close shave – maybe even a razor burn – in 2014Submitted by Bob-45 on Mon, 03/04/2013 - 13:16
By Brian Dodson
March 2, 2013
The first comet discovered this year, Comet C/2013 A1, is currently projected to pass within about 23,000 miles (37,000 km) of the surface of Mars late in 2014. While this event in itself promises spectacular views for astronomers, the uncertainty of the comet's orbit includes a significant chance of an impact on Mars. If this happens, the impact would be hundreds of times more powerful than the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs on Earth.
C/2013 A1 was discovered on January 3, 2013, by experienced comet hunter Robert McNaught, who has discovered 74 comets and 467 asteroids. The discovery was made using a 0.5 m (20-inch) Schmidt telescope at Siding Spring Observatory in New South Wales, Australia. After his discovery, astrographs showing the comet on December 8 were found from the Catalina Sky Survey, and used to help establish the orbit.
At discovery, the new comet was well beyond the orbit of Jupiter. It is approaching the inner solar system from south of the ecliptic on a hyperbolic orbit, and is presently moving sunward at about 35 km/s (22 m/s). Based on its brightness and distance, the size of the new comet is estimated at roughly 20-40 kilometers (12.5-25 miles). For comparison, asteroid DA14, which recently passed within 27,700 km (17,200 miles) of Earth's surface, was only about 30 m (100 ft) in diameter.