Washington: Comet Siding Spring or C/2013 A1, which is the size of a small mountain, passed extremely close to the planet Mars on Sunday (19 October 2014).
Wowing space enthusiasts with an event that happens once in a million years, comet C/2013 A1 made its closest encounter with Mars Sunday at 2:27 pm (1827 GMT), racing past the Red Planet at a dazzling 203,000 kilometers per hour.
The rare celestial event will give scientists a unique chance to study an object from the farthest reaches of the Solar System.
At its closest, the comet was 139,500 kilometers from Mars- less than half the distance between Earth and our moon.
“Signal confirming closest approach has just been received,”said the European Space Agency (ESA) on Twitter.
Before the comet passed, it could be seen in space racing toward the bright planet, trailed by a tail of debris.
Meanwhile, all three NASA's orbiters- Mars Odyssey, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) have confirmed that they are in good health after the comet flyby.
We survived closest approach and peak dust period with no issues. MRO reports all is nominal.
— HiRISE (@HiRISE) October 19, 2014
Earlier, NASA's Mars rover Curiosity, on its Twitter page, had wished other spacecraft orbiting around the Red Planet for safe observations.
— Curiosity Rover (@MarsCuriosity) October 19, 2014
An international fleet of spacecraft at Mars, including India's Mangalyaan and robots on the planet's surface were readied for the studies of the comet flyby.
Discovered on 3 January 2013 by professional astronomer Robert McNaught at the Siding Spring Observatory, Australia, C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring) is an Oort cloud comet. The comet is around a mile wide and is only about as solid as a pile of talcum powder.