Subscribe free to our newsletters via your
. 24/7 Space News .

Rare comet fly-by of Mars on Sunday
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Oct 16, 2014

A fast-moving comet is about to fly by Mars for a one-in-a-million-year encounter with the Red Planet, photographed and documented by a flurry of spacecraft, NASA said.

The comet, known as Siding Spring (C/2013 A1), has a core about a mile (1.6 kilometers) wide in diameter, but is only as solid as a pile of talcum powder.

Siding Spring is set to hurtle past Mars at a close distance of about 88,000 miles (139,500 kilometers).

If the comet were passing by our planet, that would be about a third of the way between the Earth and the Moon.

Siding Spring will come closest to Mars at 2:27 pm (1827 GMT) on Sunday, October 19, NASA said.

Flying through space at a breakneck speed of 122,400 miles per hour (202,000 km per hour), the small comet faces little risk of colliding with the Red Planet.

But scientists are keen to study its trajectory and trail.

"Are we going to see meteors in the Mars atmosphere? Comets are very unpredictable," said Jim Green, director of the Planetary Science Division at NASA headquarters in Washington.

"I think it is unlikely that it will be destroyed," Green told reporters. "But whether it retains its structure or not is of interest."

NASA has maneuvered its Mars orbiters to the far side of the planet so they won't be damaged by the comet's high-speed debris.

Even as the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, Mars Odyssey and MAVEN have been repositioned to avoid hazardous dust, scientists hope they will be able to capture a trove of data about the flyby for Earthlings to study.

NASA's two rovers -- Curiosity and Opportunity -- will turn their cameras skyward and send back pictures of the comet's pass in the coming days, weeks and months, the US space agency said.

- Billions of years old -

The comet was discovered by Robert McNaught at Australia's Siding Spring Observatory in January 2013.

It is believed to have originated billions of years ago in the Oort Cloud, a distant region of space that is a source of comets that are "largely unchanged since the early days of the solar system," NASA said.

Carey Lisse, senior astrophysicist at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, said scientists are intrigued by comets for many reasons.

"It is amazing that they are still around after four and a half billion years, but most of the reason for that is they have been living very, very far from the Sun and are in a deep freeze," he said.

This particular comet is about the size of a small mountain, but is probably the consistency of powder, or a meringue that would melt in your mouth, he explained.

"It should have more of the really volatile ices -- methane, carbon monoxide -- things that boil off very easily. It has never been heat treated very strongly before."

Scientists say they are curious to learn if the comet may have already broken up some on its approach to Mars.

"There is a possibility that Mars may drive some more activity, that is why we are looking," Lisse said.

The comet has traveled more than one million years to make its first pass by Mars, and will not return for another million years, after it completes its next long loop around the Sun.


Related Links
Asteroid and Comet Mission News, Science and Technology

Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

ESA confirms the primary landing site for Rosetta
Paris (ESA) Oct 16, 2014
ESA has given the green light for its Rosetta mission to deliver its lander, Philae, to the primary site on 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on 12 November, in the first-ever attempt at a soft touchdown on a comet. Philae's landing site, currently known as Site J and located on the smaller of the comet's two 'lobes', was confirmed on 14 October following a comprehensive readiness review. Since th ... read more

China's ailing moon rover weakening

NASA Mission Finds Widespread Evidence of Young Lunar Volcanism

Russian Luna-25 Mission to Cost Billions

New Batch of Lunar Soil to be Delivered to Earth in 2023-2025

Mars One -- and done?

MAVEN spacecraft's first look at Mars holds surprises

NASA Mission Provides Its First Look at Martian Upper Atmosphere

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Studies Comet Flyby

"Houston: We Have A Problem...But No Worries, Our Virtual Therapist Is On It"

Space Trips To Change World For Better: Virgin Galactic CEO

NASA Exercises Authority to Proceed with Commercial Crew Contracts

Li pledges China will boost innovation, creativity

Work completed on satellite launch center in Hainan

China to launch new marine surveillance satellites in 2019

China Successfully Orbits Experimental Satellite

China's first space lab in operation for over 1000 days

ISS Astronauts Wrap Up Preps for Wednesday Spacewalk

Progress-M Cargo Ship To Undock From ISS On Oct 27

ISS Spacewalkers Replace Power Regulator, Move Equipment

A Different Kind of Green Movement: Seedling Growth in Space

China Completes Country's Largest Spaceport

Argentina launches geostationary satellite

Arianespace's December mission for DIRECTV-14 and GSAT-16 satellites in process

Inquiry reveals design stage shortcoming in Galileo navigation system

Astronomers Spot Faraway Uranus-Like Planet

Getting To Know Super-Earths

NASA's Hubble Maps the Temperature and Water Vapor on an Extreme Exoplanet

Hubble project maps temperature, water vapor on wild exoplanet

Argentina launches its first telecom satellite

JLENS radar data integrates with NORAD system

Light bending material facilitates the search for new particles

Engineers find a way to win in laser performance by losing

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement All images and articles appearing on Space Media Network have been edited or digitally altered in some way. Any requests to remove copyright material will be acted upon in a timely and appropriate manner. Any attempt to extort money from Space Media Network will be ignored and reported to Australian Law Enforcement Agencies as a potential case of financial fraud involving the use of a telephonic carriage device or postal service.