Chris Smith / NASA

As I wrote previously, the recently discovered comet C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring) will make a extremal close approach to Mars on 19 October 2014. A collision scenario isn’t ruled out either. Today, at the ISON-NM observatory, new astrometric measurements were received for this comet. Based on the existing measurements, more accurate orbital elements were calculated. The results of the second calculation for the close approach show that the comet might pass just 41,000 km (0.000276 a.u.) from the planet’s centre, that is less than 37,000 km from its surface!

Considering the size of the coma, which should exceed 100,000 km near the perihelion of its orbit, it can be said with 100% certainty that the planet will pass through the gaseous envelope of the comet C/2013 A1. Having a very tenuous atmosphere, the surface of the red planet will be subject to intensive bombardments by microparticles which, among other things, might cause malfunction of the space probes currently there.

Observations continue, and will be stopped only in late spring due to small elongation of the comet. In the second half of summer observations will be resumed and we will continue to specify the parametres of the close approach of the comet C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring) and Mars.

Special thanks to Maksim Kakitsev for translation.