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Extra-Solar Comet May Hit Mars In 2014 (VIDEO)

Mar 28, 2013 04:23 PM EDT
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Astronomers say there is a "small but non-negligible chance" that a comet will strike Mars in October 2014.

The odds are about one in 2,000 that a comet will actually strike the Red Planet, so there is fairly low likelihood that the event will happen; it's more likely that the comet will whiz by, which will still be a significant astronomical event, but some space enthusiasts are booming at the possibility of a non-zero chance of planetary collision, something fueled by statistics and probability.

It is more likely that a comet will hit Mars on October 19, 2014 than the likelihood of you winning the lottery, getting struck by lightning or dying in a plane crash.

Comet 2013 A1, the speeding chunk of dust and ice flying through space on a Mars-bound trajectory, is believed to be as much as two miles wide and flying through space at 125,000 mph, a speed so fast that the comet might be coming from outside our solar system, the Economist reported.

"It if does hit Mars, it would deliver as much energy as 35 million megatons of TNT," said Don Yeomans of NASA's Near-Earth Object Program at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif, according to Discovery News.

The comet was discovered on Jan. 3 of this year by astronomers at the Australian Sliding Spring Observatory, the blog Technabob, reported.

A potential comet-impact may well fundamentally change the global climate of Mars.

"An impact would loft a lot of stuff into the Martian atmosphere - dust, sand, water and other debris. The result could be a warmer, wetter Mars than we're accustomed to today," said Michael Meyer, lead scientist for the Mars Exploration Program at NASA headquarters.

Even a near-miss would still be remarkable, thanks to the four spacecraft currently on or orbiting Mars. The data and photos they could capture of a comet speeding by at close range would be unprecedented.

NASA's official record of Comet 2013 A1 is here.

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