NASA released a new image of a comet C/2013 A1 – Siding Spring today. With relative speed of 56 km/s this comet will pass extraordinarily close to Mars on October 19, 2014. It is expected to fly by Mars within 135 185 km (84 000 miles), which is less than half the distance between Earth and our moon.
According to the study published online in ScienceDirect: “as of October 21, 2013 the distance of closest approach between the two [Mars and Siding Spring] is projected to be between 89 000 km and 173 000 km, with a nominal value of 131 000 km. A collision between the comet and the planet has been ruled out, but the comet’s coma may very well envelop Mars and its man-made satellites”.
Discovered in January 2013 by Robert H. McNaught at Siding Spring Observatory, the comet is falling toward the Sun along a roughly 1 million year orbit and is now within the radius of Jupiter’s orbit. The comet will make its closest approach to our sun on October 25, at a distance of 209 million km (130 million miles) – well outside of Earth’s orbit. The comet is not expected to become bright enough to be seen by the naked eye.
Photo : PANSTARRS comet and polar light in Iceland 2013 (photo Erwan Le Berre)