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NASA Says Mars Is Less Likely To Be Hit By Approaching Comet [VIDEO]

Apr 15, 2013 05:28 PM EDT

Based on new data, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory has lowered the odds that the comet Sliding Spring will hit Mars when it approaches the Red Planet in later in 2014, according to a NASA statement

The comet will reportedly come within about 68,000 miles of Mars, but officials say that there is now only a one in 120,000 chance that the comet will strike the planet. Previous estimates had the odds at one in 8,000, considerably more likely than the odds of getting struck by lightning, dying in a plane crash or winning the lottery.

Astronomers' projections have the comet at a near miss with the Martian surface at 11:50 a.m. PST on Oct. 19, 2014.

Officials are uncertain whether the two rovers on the Martian surface will be able to capture images of the comet, especially because they are engineered to look down at the Martin dirt, not up into space. 

"The issue with the Opportunity and Curiosity rovers will be power for imaging at night," said Jim Bell, a planetary scientist and Mars imaging specialist at Arizona State University. "Opportunity is solar powered and so would need to dip into reserve battery power to operate the cameras at night. Whether or not we will be able to do this will depend on how much power the rover is getting from dusty solar panels in the daytime. On the other hand, Curiosity is nuclear powered, so it could have better odds at night-time imaging." 

A NASA release from last month said that if the comet were to hit Mars, the power of the impact would be equivalent to 35 million megatons of TNT.

The most up-to-date data on the comet can always be found here.

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