Rare Comet Causes Once-In-8-Million Storm On Mars

Imagine you’re on the surface of Mars. I’ll give you a moment.

Now imagine there are thousands of fireballs hurtling towards you, leaving a yellowish glow in their wake.

That’s what happened on October 19th, according to recent NASA data. A comet named Siding Spring flew near Mars and created a pummel of comet dust. The assault of dust was far greater than what NASA previously thought. Initial estimates were that the dust wouldn’t even harm the satellites. Thankfully, they moved their satellites to the other side of Mars as a precautionary measure.

The meteors were composed of magnesium, iron, sodium and other metals that may have been so heavy as to create a storm in the red planet’s atmosphere. The storm would be composed of the thousands of fireballs an hour and would have left a yellow afterglow because of the Sulfur. NASA scientists harped on the potential beauty of the display in an interview with Associated Press.

Regretfully, scientists were not able to witness the event, but did manage to record a plethora of scientific data, which would allow them to postulate what the storm would have looked like.

The excess of Magnesium from the meteors would have changed the atmosphere of the red planet, while the sulfur left a yellow afterglow. NASA had rovers Opportunity and Curiosity on the Mars surface and directed them to look up. However, they were only able to catch a few stills.

But rarer still than the mind-boggling light show is the comet itself. Astronomers say that the Siding Spring comet could have been as big as 1.2 miles wide and was traveling at more than 125,000 mph. The comet’s comes from the Oort Cloud from the very far corner of the Milky Way. It is a shell of icy bodies that hurtles everything passing through it into its sun or a completely other area of the solar system. The area is so mysterious that xkcd even wrote a comic about it. The Oort Cloud is so far away that comets from the area are extremely rare. A meteor storm of this magnitude would happen about once every 8 million years.