NEW YORK (TIP): A comet from the outer reaches of the solar system made a rare, close pass by Mars where a fleet of robotic science probes were poised for studies. Comet Siding Spring passed just 87,000 miles (140,000km) from Mars, less than half the distance between Earth and the moon and 10 times closer than any known comet has passed by Earth, Nasa said.

The comet, named for the Australian observatory that discovered it last year, is believed to be a first-time visitor to the inner solar system, having departed the Oort Cloud, located beyond Neptune’s orbit, more than a million years ago. Comets are believed to be frozen remnants left over from the formation of the solar system some 4.6 billion years ago. “This comet is on its way plunging in toward the sun, growing a tail,” astronomer David Grinspoon, with the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona, said during a live webcast of the comet’s flyby on

The comet made its closest approach to Mars at 2.27pm EDT/1827 GMT, hurling past at about 203,000kmph (126,000mph). Initially, Nasa was concerned the comet’s dusty tail could pose a threat to orbiting spacecraft as it brushes past Mars. Later assessments somewhat allayed those concerns, but Nasa still opted to tweak its satellites’ orbits so that they would be behind the planet during the most risky part of the flyby. “Mars will be right at the edge of the debris cloud, so it might encounter some of the particles, or it might not,” Nasa Mars scientist Rich Zurek, with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said in a statement.

Mars’s atmosphere, though much thinner than Earth’s, will shield Nasa’s Opportunity and Curiosity rovers from comet dust, which may trigger meteor showers. Mars also will pass directly through the comet’s coma, which is an envelope of gas and dust surrounding the comet’s nucleus, providing an unprecedented opportunity for study, Grinspoon said. “This is a really rare event.”

- Advertise Here Call +1 646 247 9458 -

Trending (48 Hours)

France warns UK premier of tough time ahead in Brexit talks

BRUSSELS (TIP): France warned Britain at the start of a European Union summit on Oct 20 that it would face a tough, unyielding opponent...
- Advertise Here Call +1 646 247 9458 -