back to article Incoming comet will probably miss Mars, says NASA

Object-watchers are keenly catching observations of the orbit of an object discovered by Rob McNaught of Australia's Siding Spring Observatory, which is set for a very close Mars fly-by in October 2014. In fact, although NASA currently assigns the object a one-in-600 chance of an impact, and believes further observations will …


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  1. Paul J Turner

    I hope it doesn't miss

    Just to drive home to people that it really can happen and we should be getting our backsides in gear right now to spread ourselves around a bit.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: I hope it doesn't miss

      The Shoemaker-Levy impacts on Jupiter should have demonstrated that amply, but we went right on with the whole ostrich imitation deal. I'm afraid it will take an impact here where people die before it's agreed that 'something must be done.'

      1. reno79

        Re: I hope it doesn't miss

        Didn't people die from the impact in Russia recently? Still very much ignored however...

      2. Yag

        Re: I hope it doesn't miss

        Unfortunately, Shoemaker-Levy can easily be dismissed by naysayer : "Jupiter is so big, it's no surprise comets falls on it. Earth is too small for this to happens"

        At least, if it happens on Mars, it will be far more significant , and probably very impressive. Especially if the rovers manage to send some pictures of the blast front before being blasted into oblivion...

  2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge


    Looking forward to Cult Craziness.

    Still, that a lot of INTERESTING activity in the INNER SOLAR SYSTEM since the MAYAN BEST-BEFORE TIME HAS BEEN EXCEEDED. And now the POPE has VOLUNTARILY RESIGNED, too! And now this. NOT a SPACESHIP HEADED for CYDONIA? Uh-huh.

    Supplementary commentariat grounding question:

    Will the next visitor from the Oort split URANUS OPEN? Time will tell!

    1. Grave

      Re: IT BEGINS!

      well we better hurry up or the seed ship from alpha centauri camouflaged as comet will colonize mars first

      or maybe its just damn bugs sending greetings from klendathu

    2. Robert Masters

      Re: IT BEGINS!

      Up there with the best from Archimedes and the other kooks of yore.

      1. Crisp Silver badge

        Re: IT BEGINS!

        Let's hope that it doesn't have a solid core of naqahdah...

        1. moonface

          Re: IT BEGINS!

          It's followed by a spaceship scheduled to pick up those Heaven's gate members.....oh wait

  3. I'm Brian and so's my wife

    Dear FRIEND!!

    I saw your profile on LinkedInSpa-a-a-ace and wish to correspond with you. My family fled from our planet on a comet (I believe you call it C/2013 A1 Siding Spring) barely escaping with our lives and crates full of precious metals and gems.

    We need help to get to Earth and will handsomely pay you to help us. Please, just send all your money to our representative who happens to reside in Nigeria/Estonia/Russia/China to facilitate the transfer of our goods past Earth's customs and we will then transfer numerous crates to the address of your choice, etc.

    1. Fatman Silver badge

      Re: Dear FRIEND!!

      Nice one!!

      I have several cube mates wondering what the hell I am laughing so hard at.

  4. Marketing Hack Silver badge

    Another reason to colonize Mars.....

    You get front row seats to all the REALLY cool celestial events from there.

    Also, we need odds that Siding Spring (What, are comets being name by Sears Home Improvement now?) is going to hit one or more Martian LANDERS!!

  5. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge


    be a pisser for JPL if it hits

    Our wonderful curousity rover smashed to bits and buried under mega tonnes of debries

    Lets send another

    Then again it could be a blessing for humanity as in it delivers 50km^3 of water and heats mars by an average of 100 degrees thus melting all the subsurface ice

    Give it 50 yrs and humans could live there


    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: Gonna

      Maybe the Galactic Council has decided to allow humanity a break and a stepping stone.

    2. Blue eyed boy

      Give it 50 more years

      and Mars will once more look very much as it does today, the oceans frozen, the atmosphere nearly all lost to space. The only difference will be one more ginormous crater and the remains of some abandoned colonies.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Isnt someone looking to send a husband and wife mission there? So how many can convince their ex spouse and their new partner to go and land during this time:-)

  7. Rentaguru

    who is running the book

    on the odds of this being another outbreak of the longstanding jinx on Mars Ianders?

    shroomcloud for the trillion megatonne strike!

    1. Robert Masters

      Re: who is running the book

      I think that would be taking the Mars Defense System to an extreme. If the Martians have that sort of capability, I'd be more worried about them targeting us.

      (looks worriedly towards the Ukraine)

    2. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart

      Re: who is running the book

      The odds, probably McNaught.

  8. Christoph Silver badge

    No Kaboom?

    There was supposed to be a Mars-shattering kaboom!

  9. John Pattenden

    Check maths.

    At 50km it is 1/13000 diameter of Mars? So Mars is 650,000km diameter? Did I miss something?

    1. Richard Chirgwin (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Check maths.

      You didn't miss. I missed a zero. Now fixed, with thanks!

      Richard Chirgwin

      1. Paul J Turner

        Re: Check maths.

        Mars is 6,800 km diameter -

        6,800 km / 50 km = 136.

  10. Winkypop Silver badge


    Clean up, planet 4!

  11. tony2heads

    best chance to terraform mars

    If we plan terraforming Mars it needs a load of volatiles (water, carbon dioxide etc.) so if this hit the planet it would be a great chance; if it heated up permafrost on impact even better.

    icon - what we want to see on mars!

  12. AndrueC Silver badge

    Bloody hell - it's like a series of celestial lessons!

    Lesson 1 - Comets sometimes hit large objects.

    You see this huge, big gas giant? See this comet? Look - it hit it. Look at the damage!

    Lesson 2 - Objects sometimes come very close.

    You see this asteroid? You know your own orbit? Look how close it comes.

    Lesson 3 (for the hard of thinking)

    Right. Listen up monkey-man. See this small, rocky planet. Smaller than yours? You see this comet? Yeah? Now watch. And FFS pay attention this time!

    I hope we don't have to have lesson 4.

    1. Fatman Silver badge

      RE: Listen up monkey-man.

      I seriously doubt Ballmer1 gives a shit.

      1 So named for his "on stage" antics.

  13. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

    As the late sir Patrick said

    <morose voice>

    Whenever there is a comet all the crackpots come out of the woodwork

    </morose voice>

  14. Thoguht Silver badge

    Life on Mars?

    Not any more if that baby hits it. Better get your skates on, Curiosity!

  15. nordwars

    Good motivation

    I actually kind of hope that it does hit, it would be great to study. But more importantly, it would be a spectacular reminder to everyone that this could happen to Earth, and we'd better get cracking re: interstellar life boat development.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Make it hit?

    We always hear about solutions for an earth impacting object. Those same solutions could be used in turn to steer this comet onto the surface of Mars. Then we'd really get to study what an impact on this scale can do.

  17. Old_JP

    If it hits it's gonna be big

    It is widely accepted that the Chixculub crater was caused by an impact of a commet/asteroid just 10KM in diameter and that pretty much did it for the Dinosaurs and changed Earths climate dramtically. Given mars is approx 50% the size of the earth, and the 50km estimate of this comet, if it hits mars is gonna know about it big time!

  18. TeeCee Gold badge

    "NASA's current prediction of the comet's path."

    Er, surely if it passes that close to Mars it's going to deviate from that nice, straight line they've drawn across the solar system?

    Or are they expecting Mars to switch its gravity off while it passes?

    1. Mike Richards

      Re: "NASA's current prediction of the comet's path."

      There's a better visualisation of the trajectory here:

      As you can see, the comet makes a tight turn around Mars before heading out again.

    2. Guido Brunetti

      Re: "NASA's current prediction of the comet's path."

      The influence of Mars on the trajectory depends partly on the relative speed of the comet. The higher speed the less influence since the time spent in the stronger parts of Mars gravity field is very low. At well over 100,000 miles per hour the comet isn't staying long enough to produce a big, visible bend in the trajectory curve. The big curve in Nasas graphic comes from the sun, not from Mars.

      1. AndrueC Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: "NASA's current prediction of the comet's path."

        The influence of Mars on the trajectory depends partly on the relative speed of the comet

        The same principal can be applied to golf when you're putting :)

  19. Big_Boomer Bronze badge


    Ahhh, my favourite word. :-) The volatiles that SS would add to Mars atmosphere are a drop in the ocean. It won't make any appreciable difference. You would need 10 of those a year for 50 years to make it marginally habitable, and even then the atmosphere would just bleed off again due to Mars low mass. Remember that Mars has a surface pressure of 0.087psi which from our point of view (14.69psi) might as well be a vacuum. Give up on terraforming Mars and other planets and learn to live in space itself. Cheaper, easier, and there is a LOT more of it.

  20. Alan Brown Silver badge

    Big flash if it hits mars?

    A series of Green Flashes by any chance?


    1. Daniel B.

      Re: Big flash if it hits mars?

      At least now we know to shoot the damn cylinders as soon as they land!

  21. Tom_


    It would be neat if we had the technology to nudge it into a collision with Mars. OK, it's not going to help much from a terraforming perspective, but it would mean one less 50km diameter object flying through the inner solar system at 35km/s.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: Nudge

      DO IT!!


    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Nudge

      "It would be neat if we had the technology to nudge it into a collision with Mars"

      That's normally called vandalism. And I've seen Captain Scarlet, and I don't think that unintentional attacks by Earthlings end well.

  22. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

    Aside from the comet, it's nice to see/hear Siding Spring up and doing good work again after all the fire damage from the bushfires a while ago.

  23. Eenymeeny

    The wisdom of anagrams

    On a slightly more trivial note, "Siding Spring" turns out to be an anagram of "Grinding Piss" (courtesy of the Internet Anagram Server).

    I guess this *would* work rather nicely as the last words transmitted back to Earth by Curiosity as the comet barrels into it from the heavens in a freak bullseye event at 35 km/s.

    Ah, lunchbreaks...

  24. Super Fast Jellyfish

    What's amanfrommars's thoughts

    On the Pak throwing things at his home?

  25. rward

    The Spaceguard

    "NASA detects, tracks and characterizes asteroids and comets passing close to Earth using both ground- and space-based telescopes. The Near-Earth Object Observations Program, commonly called "Spaceguard," discovers these objects, characterizes a subset of them, and plots their orbits to determine if any could be potentially hazardous to our planet."

    What's the ONE THING missing from this description?

    Detects earth destroying objects... check

    Tracks them... check

    Characterizes them.... hmmm, well ok, check

    Plots orbits to determine hazard... check



    1. Nuke

      Re: The Spaceguard

      BBC program on meteorites (three? days ago) had a woman scientist saying that nuking them was a no-no as we would get showered in radioactive debris.

      I was stuck by how stupid that attitude was. Even some scientists seem to lose their sense of proportion when the subject of radioactivity comes up. The alternative (being freely talked about in the program) could be human extinction.

      Alternative suggested methods were things like painting the things white and other ways of extremely gentle nudging that would have to be done decades or centuries in advance. Yet if you nuked the thing as little as weeks in advance, most of the debris, radioactive or not, would in fact miss Earth because it would be scattered in all directions. (In practice you would want to nuke it on a previous solar orbit, say months in advance, even better). In any case, most of the debris from nuking would not be very radioactive at all.

      It is almost as if people feel it would be "unfair" to nuke a meteorite, as if it were a city or an SSSI. Let's hope there are level heads making the decisions if the need ever arises.

  26. Yag

    What about littl' Phobos and Deimos?

    Heck, the comet is BIGGER than both of them...

    1. rapid

      Re: What about littl' Phobos and Deimos?

      Suppose it does strike either moon. And like an interstellar game of pool, chunks of former orbiting confectionary come our way. Boom Boom Pow!

      Will.I.Am will have something to answer for.

  27. Nuke

    Knocking Mars out of orbit

    “It'll knock Mars out of its orbit” – See above. [No, it won't]"

    Depends what they mean by "knocking out of orbit". Plunging into the Sun or Earth, no, but the orbit must change by an amount which could probably be measured in time. So it will be "out" of its previous orbit and into a new one.

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