WASHINGTON, March 5 (Xinhua) -- Comet 2013 A1 (Siding Spring) will make a very close approach to Mars in October 2014, U.S. space agency NASA announced Tuesday in a statement.
The latest trajectory indicates the comet will pass within 186, 000 miles (300,000 kilometers) of Mars and there is a strong possibility that it might pass much closer, NASA said.
Scientists generated the trajectory for comet Siding Spring based on the data obtained by observations since October 2012. Further refinement to its orbit is expected as more observational data is obtained. At present, Mars lies within the range of possible paths for the comet and the possibility of an impact cannot be excluded.
NASA said during the close Mars approach the comet will likely achieve a total visual magnitude of zero or brighter, as seen from Mars-based assets. From Earth, the comet is not expected to reach naked eye brightness, but it may become bright enough (about magnitude 8) that it could be viewed from the southern hemisphere in mid-September 2014, using binoculars or small telescopes.
NASA scientists estimate that comet Siding Spring has been on a more than a million-year journey, arriving from our solar system's distant Oort cloud.