A comet is heading for Mars, and there is a chance that it might hit the Red Planet in October 2014. An impact wouldn't necessarily mean the end of NASA's Mars program, but it would transform the program along with Mars itself.
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This information will be updated as the comet nears Mars. Comet Siding Spring will become more active once it reaches the water line, an area about 2-3 times farther away the Sun than Earth. At this point (about April/May), heat from the Sun warms the comet, producing gases that create its coma and tail. Scientists will be able to model it better at that time.
Discovered by: Robert H. McNaught at Siding Spring Observatory in Australia
Date of Nucleus' Closest Approach: Oct. 19, 2014 at ~11:28 AM PT/2:28 PM ET/18:28 UT
Coma:At 12,000 miles (19,300 km) across.
Time for Mars to Pass Through
Velocity of Dust Particles: ~ 125,000 mph (56 km/sec)
Dust Particles Produced by Comet (1/28/14): 220 pounds (100 kilograms) per second (~800,000 lbs per hour)
Amount of Dust Particles: ~ 5 years worth of normal
Chance of Mars Impact:Unlikely
Viewing from Earth:Not expected to be bright enough to be seen by naked eye
Where is the Comet Now?
Brought to you by the Near-Earth Object (NEO) office at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. See simulation ››