Recently, space agency officials stated that, three NASA spacecraft orbiting Mars are in good health after Comet Siding Spring hurtled past the Red Planet.
On Sunday, Oct 19th, three spacecraft at Mars endured a close brush with a comet, which hummed by the Red Planet, whereas the researchers on Earth captured some stunning pictures of the comet’s close pass.
NASA’s MRO (Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter), MAVEN (Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution) probe and Odyssey spacecraft seem to be in good condition after hiding behind the Red Planet as Comet Siding spring zoomed 139,500 kilometers (87,000 miles) past the planet at high speed. NASA’s three spacecraft along with the two rovers, NASA’s Curiosity and Opportunity plus the two other probes on Mars, were also packed with gathering information about the comet and its effects on Mars.
MAVEN principal investigator Bruce Jakosky, of the University of Colorado, Boulder stated, “We are actually excited that probe came through, we are glad to complete our observations concerning how the comet effects Mars and we are keen to get to our principal science phase.”
Moreover, people used telescopes in order to capture some of the stunning pictures of the Comet Siding Spring and Mars from Earth. One of Siding Spring Observatory photos shows the Red Planet as an exceptionally bright spot with the comet shinning in blue at the center of the picture. The background stars in the image also load the close approach.
Nick Howes, an astronomer told Space.com regarding his plans to capture images of the comet, “We have been working on the three scopes at the Siding Spring Observatory and hoped that between them, we’d get a great result. When the images started coming in, we knew we had something special, just from the raw data. There’s been a lot of great images taken today; we’re just proud that the education-driven Tzec [Maun Foundation] took some of them.”
Juan Miguel González Polo, a Spanish photographer who took another image of the comet showing the comet (a circled green streak) flying toward Mars on Oct. 17 before its closest pass with the Red Planet.
Science of a flyby
The NASA’s officials told that the spacecraft at Mars had to take cover behind the planet as the speeding dust sloughed off by Comet Siding Spring could have posed a threat to the mechanisms of the probes. The comet was flying through space at 126,000 mph (203,000 km/h) relative to Mars.
Moreover, the spacecraft’s elusive tactics seemed to have worked, and all three of NASA’s orbiting spacecraft managed to gather some data as the comet flew by. The spacecraft has also observed the changes in the Martian atmosphere that could have been caused by the comet’s dust.
Odyssey Mission Manager Chris Potts, of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in Pasadena, California stated that, “The telemetry received from Odyssey this afternoon confirms not only that the spacecraft is in fine health but also that it conducted the planned observations of comet Siding Spring within hours of the comet’s closest approach to Mars.”