Comet to pass very close to Mars

Some people find it scary that there are comets and asteroids out there that might hit a planet. Next week a comet — called Comet Siding Spring or C2013-A1 — will pass within 140,000 km of the planet Mars. Astronomically, that is a close encounter: the distance is about one third the distance from the Earth to our Moon. People have been wondering what the comet will look like from Mars. I thought that it might be equally interesting to see the event from the point-of-view of the Comet. Here is my simulation of the flyby on October 18 and 19. (It looks better in HD over at Vimeo.)

In both versions of the flyby, time is speeded up 3,000 times. While both views track the comet, the first is far enough from the comet that the orbit of the Earth (green) is visible and the geometry of the encounter can be seen. In the second view, the observer is on the surface of the comet facing the position of Mars and its moons, Deimos and Phobos. When the comet is closest to Mars, the disk of Mars would half-fill the field of view in a pair of binoculars. The planet would be an awesome site! No audio. It is quiet out there.


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