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Comet Siding Spring makes rare close pass by Mars as MOM watches

The Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro’s) Mars Orbiter Mission is safe after the comet Siding Spring made a rare, close pass by the Mars, coming 10 times closer to the Red Planet than any comet on record has come to Earth.

Isro Chairman K Radhakrishnan told Business Standard that the sapce agency has tweaked its statellites’ orbit (which NASA also done for its satellites so that the satellites would go behind the planet during the most risky part of the flyby).

“All the instruments, including camera on board of Mars Orbiter were on and they made observation before and after. We need to analyse it now. This is a systematic observation,” said Radhakrishnan, who said MOM is safe and in good health.

“ISRO’s Mars Orbiter Mission is in good health past the exit of comet SidingSpring,” said Isro. “Phew! Experience of a lifetime. Watched the MarsComet SidingSpring whizzing past the planet. I’m in my orbit, safe and sound,” said in Isro’s Mars Orbiter Twitter page.

At the time of the comet’s closest approach, it was just 87,000 miles from Mars. That’s less than half the distance between Earth and the moon. Scientists have said the close encounter between planet and comet was a once-in-a-million-year event.

Apart from Isro’s Mars Orbiter Mission, NASA’s three Mars orbiters and two rovers and orbiters owned by the European Space Agency have monitored the comet’s approach and fly-by, which may have left Mars engulfed in a cloud of comet dust. All the spacecrafts are safe now.

None of the Space Research Organisations have immediately shared what kind of findings they had, however they were relieved that the Comet did not had any impact on their spacecrafts, which are orbiting.

When the comet was discovered in January 2013, NASA was concerned that speeding dust particles in the comet’s tail might damage the spacecrafts in the orbit around Mars. Later assessments allayed such concerns.

CNN reported that, Scientists don’t know what sent the comet hurtling toward the inner solar system — perhaps the gravity of a passing star bumped it into its million-year orbit. They do think, however, that this is the closest the comet has ever come to the sun. The comet will continue to sail toward the sun for a few more days before its orbit takes it on another million-year trip toward the outer solar system.

The comet was named after the Australian observatory that discovered it last year. It is also believed to be a first-time visitor to the inner solar system, having departed the Oort Cloud, located beyond Neptune’s orbit, more than a million years ago.

Comets are believed to be frozen remnants left over from the formation of the solar system some 4.6 billion years ago, according to reports.

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