Alan Boyle, supplemented by Henry Vanderbilt, has some thoughts on the potential comet strike of the Red Planet.
I hope it hits. Sure, we will lose some expensive machinery. However, it would be just about the clearest warning possible that Earth is vulnerable to flying rocks – or rubble piles, or dirty snowballs.
I agree. Mars will be well positioned in the evening sky at the time of impact and folks will be will see the comet getting closer and closer until they will merge. If the comet misses they will then see both separate, but if it does impact the flash will likely be visible even in daylight.
What Alan Boyle fails to mention is this comet is on a hyperbolic retrograde orbit from the Oort cloud so the impact speed would be 56 km/sec. The resulting crater on Mars could be larger than 500 km in diameter. If the rain of debris don’t take out the rovers the global shock wave will while it will likely create a cloud of debris around Mars for years. As to what will be the fate of Mars moons in an impact will be anyone’s guess.
If it makes an impact it will be an incredible event, and thank goodness we have satellites in Mars orbit to take close-ups.
BTW, I keep getting the handheld site instead of the desktop site. Any suggestions? The “Switch to desktop” button at the bottom forgets to add the Transterrestrial.com address, and just adding “&wpmp_switcher=desktop” to the URL doesn’t actually switch me back, either.
I remember that Comet Hyakutake in 1996 was discovered only about two months before its closest approach to Earth. That’s cutting it close.
The software program Xephem says that Comet PANSTAARS is also hyperbolic. Just coincidence, or could we be experiencing a comet shower from the Oort Cloud?
Even if this thing doesn’t hit, it is supposed to get really close to Mars. Any chance one of the two rovers could take a spectacular picture of it from the surface of Mars?
I don’t know about a rover but I imagine MRO, Odyssey and Mars Express would be able to get excellent imagery of the comet.
The rovers will be in great a position to get imagery of it, especially as the coma will likely be thousands of miles in diameter at closest approach and on the night side of the planet. There is even a good chance that the coma will be large enough to encounter both Mars and its moons even at the currently predicted close approach distance of 25,000 miles. Think of the martian meteor storm that would result in.
The rovers may be in a position to image the comet, but so will the orbiters. And the orbiters have much better cameras than do the rovers. That is my point.
That may be true from the viewpoint of science, but the rovers will have the advantage of having the landscape of Mars to give perspective to its size and will produce the pictures everyone remembers. Think of Earthrise versus all the high quality images spacecraft have taken of Earth.
BTW it appears Comet ISON will pass within 6.5 million miles of Mars this fall, so it will give the Mars armada and rovers a good practice target to calibrate with.
It would be fantastic if it hit. Not only would we have a ringside seat, but the fresh crater left over would provide great opportunities.
It would also be one of the best reminders to the dinosaurs here on earth why we need a space program.
Yeah, but what’s it going to do to Martian real-estate values? ^_^
If the heat, CO2, Methane and water released terraform Mars to the point where there is running water in the Hellas Basin it could well create a land boom driving prices up.
Think of the minerals it would expose.
I’m hoping for a hit as well. It would drive home the point that Earth is vulnerable.
It would also demonstrate cometary impact as a potential terraforming tool.
And, it would make Mars more accessible. Right now, one of the major problems is the thinness of the atmosphere making landings very challenging. All those volatiles in the comet, plus the outgassing from the crater, could double or triple Mars’ atmosphere.
I hate when other people do this, but your point about thickening of the atmosphere and the timing makes me think of divine intervention. Forgive me for not keeping that to myself.
If it does hit, I’ll be thinking of the Ian Fleming saying on such things. “Once is an accident. Twice is coincidence. Three times is an enemy action.”
Or maybe humanity is being offered a carrot to tempt us to leave our nest and take the next step in our development
A terraformed Mars with running water and decent atmosphere pressure, not to mention the additional radiation shielding such an atmosphere would provide, would be most attractive than the wreck of a planet it is now.
“Always with the negatives waves, Thomas, always with the negatives waves. It’s a beautiful planet. Why don’t you dig how beautiful the planet is?”
Its a nice place to visit, but it would be hard to live there as it is now. But this comet could change it into prime real estate. The debris it throws up may even add another Moon or two in prime orbits to use as space stations.
So you didn’t like my Oddball impersonation? I do dog imitations too. Ruff… Ruff.
I recognized it as its one of my favorite pictures, but like Moriarty I just went back to driving the tank
It would indeed be instant terraforming, not only from the outgassing from the impact, but also the heat of the impact that will be trapped in the atmosphere by the released the Carbon Dioxide/Methane. The molten rock in that 500 km plus impact crater will likely take years to cool off releasing large amounts of heat into the Martian atmosphere while it does so, perhaps even enough to melt both the polar caps and to release additional amounts of frozen CO2, Methane and water from the soil.
Then add in to your equation that many geophysics have discussed the possibility that large impacts also trigger massive volcano episodes (some theorize that is how the chain of volcanoes that Mons Olympus is part of formed) on the opposite side of the planet. If that happens additional massive amounts of CO2/methane and water will be released making the atmosphere even thicker and better to retain the heat being released. You could well end up with running water and lakes on the Martian surface, especially in low lying areas like the Hellas Basin.
Who knows, maybe in a few years Ken’s settlers will be able to farm the Hellas Basin like the Native Americans farmed the Andes
Well, if we do get an impact with outgassing, some liquid water flow, etc. we’ll also get a very important look at what happens afterwards as Mars returns to its normal, dry self. How long does that take? What processes are involved? Basically, it would help answer the question of why Mars looks like it does.
Think how much it would cost to set up such an experiment. The data this would give potential terraformers is enormous.
Yes, not to mention it would be many decades at least before we would have the technology and spacelift to even try it.
I think you’re all nuts. No-one will care.
The usual Chicken Littles will have their rant and not a single extra thin dime will be allocated to planetary defense.
Say it with me: people have to die before anyone will care, and the right people too.
What a cynic you are Trent (somebodies got to do it.) For some people, you are right, people have to die for others to care. But that’s not all people, which means it could just be the nudge required.
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