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Mars Has a “Non-Negligible” Chance of Being Hit by a Comet in 2014

 |  |  March 28, 2013

One of the most impressive things that happened to Jupiter in recorded history was when the planet was pummeled by chunks of the Shoemaker-Levy 9 comet. The thing with Jupiter is that it has an incredibly thick atmosphere so all we could really see of those impacts were disturbances in the clouds near the top of the planet’s atmosphere. I know I’m not alone in wondering what kind of damage those chunks of comet did to the surface of the gas giant.

Now, scientists and astronomers are saying that next year there is a chance that Mars could be hit by a comet.

A Jordanian boy poses with an image of Mars projected on a wall in Amman

How big a chance you say, in science-y speech, the astronomers say it’s “non-negligable.” In real numbers, there is a one-in-2000 chance that the surface of Mars will get nailed by a comet next year.

The comet in question is called C/2013 A1, and was discovered on January 3 of this year by astronomers at the Australian Siding Spring Observatory. If the comet hits the surface of Mars, it will be an incredible spectacle. Whereas we couldn’t see anything that happened on the surface of Jupiter, not only does Mars have a thin atmosphere that doesn’t obscure the surface, we also have rovers on the ground and satellites in orbit around the planet. If the impact happens, it could change Mars significantly, throwing up clouds of dust and debris. The comet is believed to be as large as 1.9 miles wide and traveling at 125,000 mph. If the comet were to hit the red planet, its impact would release energy equivalent to 35 million megatons of TNT.