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Thread: Possible Comet Collision with Mars

  1. #1
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    Cool Possible Comet Collision with Mars

    Hyperbolic Comet C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring) may be as wide as 50 km. There is a possibility of it crashing into Mars on 2014 OCT 19, according to Russian comet hunter Leonid Elenin in this article: http://spaceobs.org/en/news/

    The comet will approach closest to Earth on 2014 SEP 05. Its maximum brilliance is expected on 2014 SEP 10 and is estimated at magnitude +7.7.

    I’ve created a diagram with an “overhead” view of the comet, Mars, Earth and Sun. It’s for the months surrounding the comet’s encounter with Mars. It can be viewed from the bottom of my comets webpage: www.CurtRenz.com/comets

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    Thumbs up

    That's very interesting news to hear. I hope it does crash into Mars.

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    I wonder what the maximum brilliance on Mars will be, even if it doesn't hit? Will any of the rovers or the orbiters get a good look?

    I found this story on discovery.com
    According to calculations by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), close approach data suggests the comet is most likely to make a close pass of 0.0007 AU (that’s approximately 63,000 miles from the Martian surface). However, there’s one huge caveat.

    Due to uncertainties in the observations — the comet has only been observed for 74 days (so far), so it’s difficult for astronomers to forecast the comet’s precise location in 20 months time — comet C/2013 A1 may fly past at a very safe distance of 0.008 AU (650,000 miles). But to the other extreme, its orbital pass could put Mars directly in its path. At time of Mars close approach (or impact), the comet will be barreling along at a breakneck speed of 35 miles per second (126,000 miles per hour).
    Last edited by Swift; 2013-Feb-27 at 03:12 AM.
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    Is this the first medium size hyperbolic body confirmed inside our solar system, possibly not confirmed? My guess is 35 miles per second is right on the edge of hyperbolic for 63,000 miles from Mars, and slower than hyperbolic for 1000 kilometers from the surface of Mars. Neil

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    Quote Originally Posted by neilzero View Post
    Is this the first medium size hyperbolic body confirmed inside our solar system, possibly not confirmed?
    This comet's osculating orbit relative to the Sun for the given epoch has been calculated as hyperbolic. That's rather common. However, when comets' orbits are calculated relative to the solar system barycenter and at an epoch when they are far from major planets, their orbits turn out to be highly elliptical.

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    Leonid Elenin has obtained some new observations with the (now famous) ISON-NM telescope which show the comet will pass by Mars at an offset of just 37000 km:

    http://spaceobs.org/en/tag/c2013-a1-siding-spring/

    No errors are given, though, and I assume they are still so large that an actual collision is not ruled out.

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    I would hate to see our rovers get incapacitated, but in a way I truly hope it happens.

    It would be a very sobering lesson for people to see what havoc a global disaster of this magnitude would create.

    (the Shoemaker-Levy impact on Jupiter really didn't do this because Jupiter is just too vast for the average person
    to comprehend and there were no craters and such.)

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    ^
    Ditto. The data haul would be (well, initially) enormous, and--IMO--well worth it even if it obliterated our probes in the process.

    Even as is, this will basically be a "free" comet flyby mission.

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    Wasn't one of the plot points of Larry Niven's novel Protector was that Brennan the protector flung a comet at Mars to kill all the (native) Martians? Hmmmm....

    Nick

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    Hi, sorry to bother.

    I am reading comments on other websites suggesting that the comet could produce debris that could reach earth and that Mars would be as bright as the sun at the time of the impact. Is any of this possible/true? Very worried.

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    Don't worry

    Sure, debris might reach Earth; Martian ejecta has been found on Earth from impacts long ago. Click here for an image of one such. But if the other posters mean that the Earth will be showered with debris and all life on Earth will end.....ah,...no. And no, Mars won't shine like the sun (but it will be a pretty large fireball if viewed with telescopes).

    Don't worry. What happens on Mars, stays on Mars.
    Last edited by schlaugh; 2013-Feb-28 at 02:43 AM. Reason: added "viewed with telescopes"

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    On which side of Mars shall Deimod be at the time of passage?

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    Quote Originally Posted by schlaugh View Post
    Sure, debris might reach Earth; Martian ejecta has been found on Earth from impacts long ago.
    Maybe Spirit will make it home after all.
    Sad XKCD Spirit comic for reference.
    I'm Not Evil.
    An evil person would do the things that pop into my head.

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    Quote Originally Posted by chornedsnorkack View Post
    On which side of Mars shall Deimod be at the time of passage?
    The passage of the comet will last several days, at least. Deimos has an orbit of about 30 hours at an altitude of 23,460 km (14,580 mi). So Deimos will complete a number of orbits during the comet's transit near (or into) Mars.
    Last edited by schlaugh; 2013-Feb-28 at 02:29 PM. Reason: i before e except on Mars...

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    Doing a very quick check with the JPL Horizons ephemeris, the relative velocity will be about 55 km/s, so the comet would cross the orbit of Deimos in
    about (gulp) 15 minutes. Retrograde near-hyperbolic orbits...

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    Assuming an impact on Mars, far away from Curiosity, I wonder what the odds of survival are? I would also assume that if an impact was confirmed in 2014, Curiosity's mission would go into overdrive.

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    I’ve been in contact with Aldo Vitagliano, the creator of the Solex astronomical numerical integration program. He developed 50,000 clones of the comet that fit within the possible error range of the still quite preliminary data. After running them through Solex he got 6 hits or 0.0012%. So a collision appears extremely unlikely, though still possible. Aldo hopes to know more tomorrow. If so, he’ll send me a file with a thousand clones including a few impactors to input into my copy of Solex. That may cause me to fine tune my chart: www.CurtRenz.com/comets

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    I'll be following this. Yeah, it'd be cool if it hit Mars.

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    I suppose it is about a 20 times more probable that it will hit Mars than Deimos or the other moon of Mars with the present probable miss distance. Neil
    Last edited by neilzero; 2013-Feb-28 at 09:56 PM.

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    I would think the odds would be a lot less for the moons, given their size. Plus Mars would affect a close pass much more with its gravity.

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    I can only imagine what the conspiracy theorists will come up with regarding this event/non-event. Might even have to start a 'best conspiracy theory' thread on the fun n games forum...

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    This one might require its own forum in CT.

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    The JPL has updated its figures for the trajectory of the comet. Please see:-

    http://ssd.jpl.nasa.gov/sbdb.cgi?sstr=2013A1;cad=1#cad

    It would appear that the nominal distance has been reduced, now showing 0.000702579318608323. The Maximum distance is standing at:- 0.00794058075188626.

    I believe that this translates to a nominal distance of approximately 105104.3700553388 kilometers. Please correct me if incorrect.

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    Anybody else think that it is about time we started investing heavily in planetary defence. Strikes me that it would be an incredibly worthwhile industry, and anyhow, can we really afford not to?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Concerned View Post
    The JPL has updated its figures for the trajectory of the comet.
    Please understand that JPL is providing “osculating” orbital elements only accurate for the epoch 2013 JAN 11.0. While these may be fairly good for weeks or even months on either side of the epoch, they break down after longer periods or when a minor body passes near a major planet. The elements are based on a two-body Keplerian solution, i.e. the only bodies in the universe are assumed to be the comet and the Sun. Future perturbations from planets are not considered. Numerical integration is required for long term accuracy, but even that leads to doubtful predictions following a close passage.
    For astronomical graphics and data visit
    https://www.CurtRenz.com/astronomy.html

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    Quote Originally Posted by Concerned View Post
    Anybody else think that it is about time we started investing heavily in planetary defence. Strikes me that it would be an incredibly worthwhile industry, and anyhow, can we really afford not to?
    Considering the federal spending sequester, it may have to be done privately. With that in mind, it's impressive how the private firm SpaceX encountered glitches in its launch to the ISS today and was able to repair them from the ground.
    For astronomical graphics and data visit
    https://www.CurtRenz.com/astronomy.html

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    Quote Originally Posted by Centaur View Post
    Please understand that JPL is providing “osculating” orbital elements only accurate for the epoch 2013 JAN 11.0. While these may be fairly good for weeks or even months on either side of the epoch, they break down after longer periods or when a minor body passes near a major planet. The elements are based on a two-body Keplerian solution, i.e. the only bodies in the universe are assumed to be the comet and the Sun. Future perturbations from planets are not considered. Numerical integration is required for long term accuracy, but even that leads to doubtful predictions following a close passage.
    Does this mean that any data from the jpl is inherently untrustworthy at this time? I have read updates by elenin which place comets nominal trajectory closer to mars. Which source, therefore, has more value?

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    Updates from the kitt peak observatory has now increased the distance of closest approach to 70500 kilometers (43806 mi). Please see link http://spaceobs.org/en/2013/03/02/cl...date-analysis/ for more info.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Centaur View Post
    Considering the federal spending sequester, it may have to be done privately. With that in mind, it's impressive how the private firm SpaceX encountered glitches in its launch to the ISS today and was able to repair them from the ground.
    It is very impressive, but, still more does need to be done. The problem with tackling such a problem, for private investors is the lack of obvious returns. SpaceX has the benefit of commercial contracts from NASA (at least for development), due to its previously successful transportation missions. Whereas where would the financial reward be for a company with the sole aim of manoeuvring/annihilating an asteroid. They might develop technologies that could be patented to their benefit, but, there would not be a direct financial gain. Such an endeavour literally requires someone/an agency/government willing to throw money at the problem, similarly to the original space program. Better to start now than later?

    Maybe an economic model would be if we all paid an earth safety tax, to aid in funding the industry?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Concerned View Post
    Does this mean that any data from the jpl is inherently untrustworthy at this time? I have read updates by elenin which place comets nominal trajectory closer to mars. Which source, therefore, has more value?
    Neither one, and JPL concedes that. As I stated earlier, numerical integration is required in such a case rather than reliance on osculating orbital elements. Solex creator Aldo Vitagliano is working on that as he awaits more observational data. I'll let you know when I get an update from him.
    For astronomical graphics and data visit
    https://www.CurtRenz.com/astronomy.html

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