Tags: comet | mars | near | miss | nasa

Comet, Mars in a Near Miss That Gives NASA a Spectacular Show

By    |   Tuesday, 21 October 2014 07:02 AM

Mars was nearly hit by Comet Siding Spring on Sunday, the closest shave the Red Planet has had in roughly a million years.

Named for the Australian observatory that detected it in 2013, the comet gave NASA's ground rovers and orbiting satellites something wondrous to observe and measure as it flew within 87,000 miles of the surface – roughly one-third the distance from Earth to the Moon.

Siding Spring barreled by at 126,000 miles per hour, or 184,800 feet per second, carrying with it dust from the edges of our solar system.

"This comet is making its first visit this close to the sun from the outer solar system's Oort Cloud, so the concerted campaign of observations may yield fresh clues to our solar system's earliest days more than 4 billion years ago," NASA said in a statement.

According to CNET.com, no comet has ever come that close to Earth in recorded history, so the comet represents a unique opportunity for scientists to get a close look at such a huge comet.

"We cannot plan missions to comets like this – this one was discovered less than two years ago. It is incredible luck that it is saving us the trouble of going to it, as it flies by Mars, which is being explored by seven active robots," said Mark Lemmon, a camera team member for NASA's Curiosity and Opportunity Mars rovers, MSN.com reported.

"So this very much is a once-in-a-lifetime event, for us and our rovers."

Lemmon said that images will begin pouring in from the rovers and satellites early this week, and the imaging teams will work on processing them and cleaning them up. They'll look at the comets mass, chemical composition, temperature, and more.

After the flyby, NASA reported Sunday night that its plan to move its orbiting satellites behind the planet to avoid being damaged by hurtling space dust had worked exactly as planned.

"Mars Odyssey, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, and the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) orbiter . . . confirmed their healthy status Sunday after each took shelter behind Mars during a period of risk from dust released by a passing comet," the space outfit said in a blog post.

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Mars was nearly hit by Comet Siding Spring on Sunday, the closest shave the Red Planet has had in roughly a million years.
comet, mars, near, miss, nasa
Tuesday, 21 October 2014 07:02 AM
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