It looks like NASA’s hard-working Opportunity Rover nabbed our very first pictures of a comet seen from another world! A study of raw images taken by the rover turned up a very promising fuzzy object. Only three night sky pictures were posted today, but two clearly show a fuzzy spot near the center of the field. Stars show as points of light and there are what appear to be a smattering of cosmic ray hits, but in the photo above, the brightest object is slightly elongated (trailed during the exposure?) and cometary in appearance.
Here’s another photo:
Looking back over earlier photos of the sky taken on Sol 3212 show only stars and no fuzzy blobs. The pictures were taken around 4:13 a.m. local time with the Sun 25 degrees below the horizon. Opportunity can photograph diffuse objects as dim as the Andromeda Galaxy at magnitude +3.5 and stars down to magnitude +6 or +7. That’s similar to what we see on Earth on very dark night. Since the comet glowed far brighter at around magnitude -5 by some estimates, it would be a relatively easy catch for the rover panoramic camera.
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NASA has also posted images taken by the Curiosity Rover but for the life of me I can’t find any sign of the Comet Siding Spring. Maybe it’ll pop out after the noise is removed. We’ll keep you posted.