Are the research rovers exploring the Martian surface in threat? An unexpected guest is arriving on the Red Planet and this has raised concerns among the world scientists including those from US space agency NASA, whose Mars exploration rovers including Spirit, Opportunity and Curiosity are searching life on the planet.
According to the scientists, a comet dubbed Siding Spring will have a close encounter with the Mars. Scientists say the comet is unlikely to be dangerous for the planet and the rovers or the research satellites orbiting the red planet too but celestial events always remain a concern.
On October 19, 2014, the Siding Spring comet is likely to pass the Red Planet at a relative speed of 35 miles per second (56 km per second) within 82,000 miles, a distance that is considered very close in astronomical terms.
Siding Spring comet was named after the Australian laboratory, Siding Spring Observatory, where it was discovered in January 2013 by Australian astronomer Robert H. McNaught.
According to the scientists, the comet is concerning them because they usually eject gases, water vapor and tiny dust particles that may be dangerous due to their very high speed.
“The comets are essentially little cannonballs and bullets flying around, and they could do real damage,” said Richard Zurek, lead scientist for the Mars Program Office at Jet Propulsion Laboratory of NASA.
Currently, two NASA rovers are exploring life on the surface of Mars. Moreover, five US satellites are orbiting the Red planet. If the comet turns dangerous, it can potentially damage three of the American precious satellites which are valued at USD 1.5 billion.
However, the scientists predict very little chances of damage but the close encounter will affect the upper layer of Martian atmosphere.