NASA's Mars spacecraft sends back images of comet Siding Spring

NASA has released fascinating photos of comet Siding Spring captured by one of its orbiters and a rover as it whizzed past the Mars planet on Sunday (October 19, 2014).

By Salome Phelamei | Last Updated: Oct 23, 2014, 00:50 AM IST
NASA's Mars spacecraft sends back images of comet Siding Spring
NASA

Washington: NASA has released fascinating photos of comet Siding Spring captured by one of its orbiters and a rover as it whizzed past the Mars planet on Sunday (October 19, 2014).

Comet Siding Spring, also known as C/2013 A1, which blazed by Mars over the weekend, put an international fleet of spacecraft at Mars on high alert.

However, all three NASA's orbiters, including India's Mangalyaan, emerged unharmed from their close encounter with the comet.

Hiding behind the planet to protect themselves from dust released by the comet, the orbiters also managed to gather data and images of the comet beaming them back to Earth.

NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), using its used its High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera, grabbed images of the the comet as it hurtled past the Red Planet. The researchers found that the nucleus of the comet is rather smaller than originally expected.

Also, NASA's rover Opportunity has captured some images of the comet with its panoramic camera.

According to NASA, the images the orbiter provided are the highest-resolution views ever acquired of a comet coming from the Oort Cloud, which is at the fringes of the solar system.