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It Came From the Oort Cloud: Comet Siding Spring’s Close Encounter with Mars


Observing Comet Siding Spring at Mars

This afternoon newly discovered Comet Siding Spring makes a close fly by Mars. Although NASA had to move all Mars orbiting spacecraft to the lee side to protect them from potential debris in the comet’s wake, Curiosity Rover will be positioned to observe (mastcam) and detect (chemcam). The comet was first observed by astronomer Robert H. McNaught working at the Siding Spring Observatory in Australia.

“We’re going to observe an event that happens maybe once every million years. This is an absolutely spectacular event.” –Jim Green, director of NASA’s planetary science division.

Siding Spring, whose core is 0.5 to 5 miles (0.8 to 8 kilometers) wide, probably formed somewhere between Jupiter and Neptune about 4.6 billion years ago — just a few million years after the solar system began coming together.

Many of the objects in the region where the comet was born were incorporated into newly forming planets, but Siding Spring apparently had a close encounter with one of these planets and was booted out into the Oort Cloud, a frigid comet repository at the very outer reaches of the solar system. A million years ago or so, a star passing by the Oort Cloud is thought to have jolted the comet’s orbit again, sending it on its first-ever trip into the inner solar system.

The comet’s history helps explain why scientists are so excited about its current journey: Since Siding Spring has never been “heat-treated” by the sun before, it’s a pristine object that looks much the same today as it did 4.6 billion years ago.

A couple Twitter hashtags to follow as Siding Spring approaches Mars include #MarsComet and #SidingSpring.


Comet Siding Spring: A Close Encounter with Mars

Below is a live feed from the European Space Agency starts around 1:50pm ET, 10:50am PT. Until then it’s broadcasting a replay of a Mars Robotics Programme confab. The comet will be at its very closet to Mars at 2:27pm ET.

Watch live streaming video from eurospaceagency at livestream.com
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It Came From the Oort Cloud: Comet Siding Spring’s Close Encounter With Mars (Updated)


Observing Comet Siding Spring at Mars

This afternoon newly discovered Comet Siding Spring makes a close fly by Mars. Although NASA had to move all Mars orbiting spacecraft to the lee side to protect them from potential debris in the comet’s wake, Curiosity Rover will be positioned to observe (mastcam) and detect (chemcam). The comet was first observed by astronomer Robert H. McNaught working at the Siding Spring Observatory in Australia.

“We’re going to observe an event that happens maybe once every million years. This is an absolutely spectacular event.” –Jim Green, director of NASA’s planetary science division.

Siding Spring, whose core is 0.5 to 5 miles (0.8 to 8 kilometers) wide, probably formed somewhere between Jupiter and Neptune about 4.6 billion years ago — just a few million years after the solar system began coming together.

Many of the objects in the region where the comet was born were incorporated into newly forming planets, but Siding Spring apparently had a close encounter with one of these planets and was booted out into the Oort Cloud, a frigid comet repository at the very outer reaches of the solar system. A million years ago or so, a star passing by the Oort Cloud is thought to have jolted the comet’s orbit again, sending it on its first-ever trip into the inner solar system.

The comet’s history helps explain why scientists are so excited about its current journey: Since Siding Spring has never been “heat-treated” by the sun before, it’s a pristine object that looks much the same today as it did 4.6 billion years ago.

A couple Twitter hashtags to follow as Siding Spring approaches Mars include #MarsComet and #SidingSpring.


Comet Siding Spring: A Close Encounter with Mars

Below is a live feed from the European Space Agency starts around 1:50pm ET, 10:50am PT. Until then it’s broadcasting a replay of a Mars Robotics Programme confab. The comet will be at its very closet to Mars at 2:27pm ET. (more…)

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Elliott

Elliott