A recently discovered comet will make an uncomfortably close planetary flyby next year — but this time it’s not Earth that’s in the crosshairs.
According to preliminary orbital prediction models, comet C/2013 A1 will buzz by Mars on Oct. 19, 2014. The icy interloper is thought to originate from the Oort Cloud — a hypothetical region surrounding the solar system containing countless billions of cometary nuclei that were outcast from the primordial solar system billions of years ago.
We know that comets have hit the planets before (re: the massive Comet Shoemaker–Levy 9that crashed into Jupiter in 1994), Mars in particular. It’s also believed that Earth’s oceans were created by water delivered by comets — cometary impacts are an inevitable part of living in this cosmic ecosystem.