By Nancy Atkinson
There is an outside chance that a newly discovered comet might be on a collision course with Mars. Astronomers are still determining the trajectory of the comet, named C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring), but at the very least, it is going to come fairly close to the Red Planet in October of 2014.
“Even if it doesn’t impact, it will look pretty good from Earth, and spectacular from Mars, probably a magnitude -4 comet as seen from Mars’ surface,” Australian amateur astronomer Ian Musgrave wrote.
The comet was discovered in the beginning of 2013 by comet-hunter Robert McNaught at the Siding Spring Observatory in New South Wales, Australia. According to a discussion on the IceInSpace amateur astronomy forum, when the discovery was initially made, astronomers at the Catalina Sky Survey in Arizona looked back over their observations to find “pre-recovery” images of the comet dating back to Dec. 8, 2012. These observations placed the orbital trajectory of comet C/2013 A1 right through Mars orbit on Oct. 19, 2014.