Saturday, March 2, 2013

Comet Coming for Mars

Okay, so this blog is rapidly becoming rather space-focused of late. I blame that on two things--my work-in-progress sci-fi novel directing my attention towards astronomy news, and also just the fact that a lot of freaking cool space stuff has been happening lately.

So here's the dealio. There's a comet that will come pretty close to Mars in October 2014. By "pretty close", I mean there's actually a real chance it might smash straight into Mars.

Let that just sink in for a moment (no pun intended).

There's a comet. It's likely somewhere between 10-30 miles in diameter. It's heading towards Mars. Its current icy form (being a billion miles from the Sun) may alter as it gets closer to the Sun. It may alter so much (by venting off gas), that instead of missing Mars (which it would by about a distance of 23,000 miles on its current trajectory), it could hit the red planet in an apocalyptic impact that would cause an explosion 25 million times larger than any nuclear weapon we've ever set off here on Earth.


Image Credit: NASA/JPL
Odds are, it won't hit Mars. But even if it misses, the comet's "coma" (its field of icy, dusty debris that surrounds it as it sails through the solar system) may still hit Mars. In fact, the odds of the coma hitting Mars are pretty decent. Mars will likely get pelted with a meteor-shower-to-end-all-meteor-showers, at the very least.

So what does this mean for us?

Well, the good news for Earth is that there's zero chance of this hurting us here.

The bad news is that our Mars rovers and satellites may end up in serious danger.

Nooooo, Curiosity!!!
The worse news is that if the comet does hit, any potential life on Mars would likely be wiped out. So there goes discovering any alien neighbors.


As cool as a comet slamming into Mars would look, I'm personally hoping for a nice wide miss. I'm going to be pretty heartbroken if Curiosity ends up failing because of this comet. And my personal, deep-hope of finding life on Mars would be shattered if this collision did come to pass.

You hear that, Comet C/2013 A1? You stay away from my second favorite planet if you know what's good for you! *shakes fist at ice-ball one billion miles away*

PS: Weekly Science Roundups shall return, I promise. My writing life has just gotten pretty swamped lately, so I'm prioritizing!

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