The big, big show is still to come. This fall brings Comet ISON... and it could be one massive honker of a spectacle, folks! If you remember Comet Hyakutake in the spring of 1996 and how enormous it was (I'll never forget how it looked during spring break at Elon College), ISON could possibly eclipse that.
And now there is Comet C/2013 A1 waiting in the wings: a visitor from the far-flung reaches of the Solar System that might... emphasis on might... have repercussions for places close to home. Namely, Mars.
|Comet C/2013 A1 (credit: Carl Hergenrother)|
Hit here for more about C/2013 A1 at Discovery.com's article.
Ever see those photos of Shoemaker-Levy 9 when it smashed into Jupiter in 1994? It wasn't one complete body: it was a big chain of teenier fragments of the parent comet after it was broken apart by Jupiter's gravity. The smaller chunks flew into Jupiter like pearls loose from a necklace and you could see the impacts from Earth with even a medium-sized telescope.
Now envision one solid mass of rock, dirt and ice the size of three or four big-a$$ mountains smooshed together, and that mass rushing toward Mars at about 126,000 miles per hour. Toward the planet next door.
Depending on where you live and the sky conditions, if C/2013 A1 hits Mars, it might well be visible with the unaided eye.
Assuming that it hits Mars at all. Or that Marvin doesn't get to it with his Illudium Q36 Exploding Space Modulator first...
|"Where's the 'KA-BOOM!'? There's supposed to be a C/2013 A1-shattering KA-BOOM!"|