Tuesday, March 5, 2013


It will be possibly cataclysmic, apocalyptic, like take the largest nuke ever exploded on Earth and multiply it by 20 or 30 times, or a million billion tons of TNT explosion – got it? In other words BIG! There’s a comet heading for Mars, comet c/2013 A1- discovered in January, and it will be there in 2014. It could be a really close miss, but a dead on hit is the more likely scenario.

But let’s suppose it is a near miss. The coma of a Comet is a key source of water for planets. A near miss might bring to Mars what we need to terraform. At least a couple of the steps. But back to the near miss. Comets are made up of water/ice, CO2, many other types of rocks and dust. Organic compounds are present too.

The comet c/2013 A1 is from the Oort Cloud – a vast cloud where most of the contents contain Methane, ice, and ammonia. The Oort cloud is nearly a quarter of the distance to Proxima Centauri and is not under the Sun’s gravitational influence as it thought to be traveling faster than the Suns escape velocity. (That is 617 km/s) … Of course it is from all the various news and science reporting agencies that I gather this information, but I seem to recall that the Oort cloud was a theory, hypothesis really. So how is the comet from there? In 1992 the Oort cloud went from theory to fact (the Kuiper belt too) when a large object (150 miles wide) was detected emerging from there. During the next couple of years many other objects though none as large were detected emanating from that “cloud” and so it became the Comet Reservoir known as the Oort Cloud.

So back to the comet. Whether the comet hits Mars head on or passes nearby, one thing is sure, we stand to lose a lot of our robotic friends. From Opportunity to our chatty friend Curiousity and all the other rovers and orbital units, perhaps even MAVEN (an orbital research vessel that is to gather data on the atmosphere of Mars and how it came to change.) Still, whether they survive or not it is just possible that thanks to their 50 yard seats we’ll get to see an amazing show!

What does this mean for us? There are bound to be nay-sayers that think it unwise to after that go to Mars, but afterwards seems the ideal time. A comet hitting a planet like this is expected happens as often as, well, the Dinosaurs get annihilated, so it means we are safe for a while. And to see the affect this comet has on Mars could be a game changer!

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