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Comet Siding Spring approaches within a degree of Mars at 5:07 a.m. CDT today October 19. Closest approach happens around 1:28 p.m. CDT (18:28 UT) when the comet will brush about 83,240 miles from the planet's surface. Image copyright SEN / Damian Peach

Comet Siding Spring approaches within a degree of Mars at 5:07 a.m. CDT today October 19. Closest approach happens around 1:28 p.m. CDT (18:28 UT) when the comet will brush about 83,240 miles from the planet’s surface. Image copyright SEN / Damian Peach

Astrophotographer Damian Peach shares this spectacular image of comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring approaching Mars taken just hours ago.  The faint comet shows a small, condensed coma and bent tail against the glaring orange glow of the brilliant planet. Most photos of comets passing by a planet or deep sky object are lucky line-of-sight pairings with the comet in the foreground and object light years away in the background. Not this one. Both Siding Spring and Mars lie at nearly the identical distance from Earth of 151 million miles (243 million km).   [click to continue…]

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Comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring passed between the Small Magellanic Cloud (left) and the rich globular cluster NGC 130 on August 29, 2014. Credit: Rolando Ligustri

Comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring passed between the Small Magellanic Cloud (left) and the rich globular cluster NGC 130 on August 29, 2014. Credit: Rolando Ligustri

We present here a compendium of Universe Today articles on comet Siding Spring. Altogether 18 Universe Today stories and counting have represented our on-going coverage of a once in a lifetime event. The articles beginning in February 2013, just days after its discovery, lead to the comet’s penultimate event – the flyby of Mars, October 19, 2014. While comet Siding Spring will reach perihelion just 6 days later, October 25, 2014, it will hardly have sensed the true power and impact that our Sun can have on a comet.

Siding Spring’s Oort Cloud cousin, Comet ISON in November 2013 encountered the Sun at a mere 1.86 million km. The intensity of the Sun’s glare was 12,600 times greater than what Siding Spring will experience in a few days. Comet ISON did not survive its passage around the Sun but Comet Siding Spring will soon turn back and begin a very long journey to its place of origin, the Oort Cloud far beyond Pluto.

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Watch Live as Comet Siding Spring Flys By Mars

Not only will the Mars orbiters gather information about the comet and its dust before, during and after the encounter, a fleet of additional telescopes will make the most of the rare opportunity. Credit: NASA.

Not only will the Mars orbiters gather information about the comet and its dust before, during and after the encounter, a fleet of additional telescopes will make the most of the rare opportunity. Credit: NASA.

Comet Siding Spring will pass close to Mars today, Sunday, October 19, at 18:32 UTC. The comet will come within 139,500 km (87,000 miles) of the Red Planet, which is sixteen times closer to Mars than any known comet has ever come to Earth. About 100 minutes after the closest approach, the densest part of the comet’s tail will pass Mars’ location. You can watch live below courtesy of Slooh, ESA and the Virtual Telescope, below:

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Recovery crew members process the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle at Vandenberg Air Force Base after completing 674 days in space. A total of three X-37B missions have been completed, totaling 1,367 days on orbit.   Photo: Boeing

Recovery crew members process the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle at Vandenberg Air Force Base after completing 674 days in space. A total of three X-37B missions have been completed, totaling 1,367 days on orbit. Photo: Boeing
Watch cool landing video below

The US Air Force’s unmanned, X-37B military space plane made an autonomous runway landing on Friday, Oct. 17, at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., concluding an orbital test flight nearly two years in duration on a record breaking mission whose goals are shrouded in secrecy. [click to continue…]

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Comet 2013 A1 Siding Spring on October 17, 2014, with two days to go until its Martian encounter. Very dense Milkyway starfield in the background with many darker obscured regions. Credit and copyright: Damian Peach/SEN.

Comet 2013 A1 Siding Spring on October 17, 2014, with two days to go until its Martian encounter. Very dense Milkyway starfield in the background with many darker obscured regions. Credit and copyright: Damian Peach/SEN.

The excitement continues to build as Comet Siding Spring rapidly approaches the Red Planet, and here’s the latest view of the comet from prolific astrophotographer Damian Peach. While Comet Siding Spring’s encounter with Mars on October 19 will not be visible from Earth with the unaided eye, skywatchers in mid-northern latitudes, can now view the comet; an 8-inch (20 cm) or larger telescopes is needed to follow the comet as it travels from Scorpius north to Ophiuchus and its encounter with Mars on October 19.

The comet will come within 139,500 km (86,000 miles) above the planet’s surface on Sunday.

In Depth: How to See Comet Siding Spring as it Encounters Mars

Below, see a really nice animation put together by Kevin Gill of the path the comet will take past Mars.

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