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Old March 5 2013, 08:57 PM   #1
Candlefright
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Planet Mars to be hit by a comet in 2014

http://www.slate.com/blogs/bad_astro...ober_2014.html

In case you just can’t get enough impact news, it looks like Mars may actually get hit by a comet in 2014! As it stands right now, the chance of a direct impact are small, but it’s likely Mars will get pelted by the debris associated with the comet.

The comet is called C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring), discovered on Jan. 3, 2013 by the Australian veteran comet hunter Robert McNaught. As soon as it was announced, astronomers at the Catalina Sky Survey looked at their own data and found it in observations from Dec. 8, 2012, which helped nail down the orbit (I explain how that works in a previous article about asteroid near-misses). Extrapolating its orbit, they found it will make a very near pass of Mars around Oct. 19, 2014, missing the planet by the nominal distance of about 100,000 kilometers (60,000 miles).

Observations taken at the ISON-NM observatory in New Mexico just this week have tightened up the orbit a bit more, allowing for better predictions. Given this new data, the comet may actually pass closer to Mars; another veteran comet hunter, Leonid Elenin, predicts it may get as close as 37,000 km (23,000 miles) of the surface of Mars!
If the nucleus does hit the planet, well.

That will be amazing, and by “amazing” I mean “apocalyptic”. 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). Even using the small number means Mars would be slammed by an unimaginable impact. The comet is orbiting the Sun backward (more on that in a second), so it will be moving at a speed of about 55 kilometers per second (120,000 miles per hour!) upon impact. That means the comet has a huge amount of kinetic energy, the energy of motion. That energy will be released at impact as an explosion. A big one.

A really big one.

Doing a rough calculation, I get an explosive yield of roughly one billion megatons: That’s a million billion tons of TNT exploding. Or, if you prefer, an explosion about 25 million times larger than the largest nuclear weapon ever tested on Earth.

We need a rescue mission to get Curiosity out of there!
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Old March 5 2013, 10:04 PM   #2
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Re: Planet Mars to be hit by a comet in 2014

That would be pretty amazing to witness. With or rovers and the orbiting surveying spacecraft in orbit there we could get some amazing data if it hits.
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Old March 5 2013, 10:17 PM   #3
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Re: Planet Mars to be hit by a comet in 2014

Really interesting; thanks, Candlelight. Am I perverse for wanting a direct strike, so we can observe the effects?
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Old March 5 2013, 10:37 PM   #4
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Re: Planet Mars to be hit by a comet in 2014

Pretty nasty dilemma the Martians are facing there. If they continue hiding, they'd be obliterated, if they use their comet deflection system, we'll be after their green asses. I suspect the comet trajectory might be intentional...
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Old March 5 2013, 10:49 PM   #5
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Re: Planet Mars to be hit by a comet in 2014

That would certainly put a damper on the current plans for manned missions to Mars.

I wonder if the explosion would be large enough to be seen from Earth without a telescope, or even if the two planets would be aligned such that we could see it.
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Old March 5 2013, 11:24 PM   #6
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Re: Planet Mars to be hit by a comet in 2014

farmkid wrote: View Post
That would certainly put a damper on the current plans for manned missions to Mars.

I wonder if the explosion would be large enough to be seen from Earth without a telescope, or even if the two planets would be aligned such that we could see it.
Not likely. Even at its closest pass, Mars is just an orange dot in the sky.
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Old March 5 2013, 11:44 PM   #7
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Re: Planet Mars to be hit by a comet in 2014

farmkid wrote: View Post
That would certainly put a damper on the current plans for manned missions to Mars.
Not at all, considering the only plan close to launching is scheduled for 4 years after the possible impact and that mission is just a flyby that won't arrive for another year after departure..
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Old March 6 2013, 03:18 AM   #8
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Re: Planet Mars to be hit by a comet in 2014

The Ice Warriors are going to be pissed.
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Old March 6 2013, 03:21 AM   #9
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Re: Planet Mars to be hit by a comet in 2014

Quick, Curiosity, find a cave!
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Old March 6 2013, 08:07 AM   #10
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Re: Planet Mars to be hit by a comet in 2014

_C_ wrote: View Post
farmkid wrote: View Post
That would certainly put a damper on the current plans for manned missions to Mars.

I wonder if the explosion would be large enough to be seen from Earth without a telescope, or even if the two planets would be aligned such that we could see it.
Not likely. Even at its closest pass, Mars is just an orange dot in the sky.
Depending on which side it hits, we might see it as a bright flash in the sky.
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Old March 6 2013, 09:52 AM   #11
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Re: Planet Mars to be hit by a comet in 2014

Tiberius wrote: View Post
_C_ wrote: View Post
farmkid wrote: View Post
That would certainly put a damper on the current plans for manned missions to Mars.

I wonder if the explosion would be large enough to be seen from Earth without a telescope, or even if the two planets would be aligned such that we could see it.
Not likely. Even at its closest pass, Mars is just an orange dot in the sky.
Depending on which side it hits, we might see it as a bright flash in the sky.
Link?
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Old March 6 2013, 09:59 AM   #12
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Re: Planet Mars to be hit by a comet in 2014

CorporalCaptain wrote: View Post
Tiberius wrote: View Post
_C_ wrote: View Post

Not likely. Even at its closest pass, Mars is just an orange dot in the sky.
Depending on which side it hits, we might see it as a bright flash in the sky.
Link?
For my claim that we'd be able to see it? None, I'm hypothesizing that if the side where it hits is facing Earth and it is at night, we may see the flash.
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Old March 6 2013, 10:03 AM   #13
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Re: Planet Mars to be hit by a comet in 2014

I think you'd only see the flash if Mars was being obliterated.
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Old March 6 2013, 10:46 AM   #14
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Re: Planet Mars to be hit by a comet in 2014

It's pretty unlikely that the comet will actually hit Mars, but I'm a little concerned about our resources there. The satellites could very well be sandblasted into oblivion. The rovers would have the protection of the atmosphere, but could also be imperiled.
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Old March 6 2013, 11:00 AM   #15
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Re: Planet Mars to be hit by a comet in 2014

Awesome Possum wrote: View Post
The Ice Warriors are going to be pissed.
Unless they're behind it? Comets are mainly ice aren't they....OMG!
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