March 28, 2014

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope Spots Mars-Bound Comet Siding Spring Sprout Multiple Jets

A comet C/2013 A1, also known as Siding Spring, is heading for Mars, and there is a chance that it might hit the Red Planet on October, 2014.

On that date, comet 2013 A1 Siding Spring will buzz Mars about 10 times closer than any identified comet has ever flown past Earth.

NASA released Thursday an image of the comet that, on Oct. 19, will pass within 84,000 miles of Mars -- less than half the distance between Earth and our moon.


The image on the left, captured March 11 by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, shows comet Siding Spring, at a distance of 353 million miles from Earth. Hubble can't see Siding Spring's icy nucleus because of its diminutive size. The nucleus is surrounded by a glowing dust cloud, or COMA, that measures roughly 12,000 miles across.

The right image shows the comet after image processing techniques were applied to remove the hazy glow of the coma revealing what appear to be two jets of dust coming off the location of the nucleus in opposite directions.

The nucleus of the comet is probably 1 to 3 km in diameter, and it is coming in fast, around 56 km/s (125,000 mph). A direct impact remains unlikely, a 1 in 2000 chance of impact, but it if does hit Mars, it would deliver as much energy as 35 million megatons of TNT.

Stay tuned for updates as the comet approaches.

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