Comet Siding Spring

On October 19, 2014, Comet Siding Spring will make a remarkably close flyby of Mars, coming within one third of the Earth-Moon distance from the Red Planet. NASA will mobilize an entire fleet of rovers, orbiters, Earth observatories and space telescopes to watch the encounter. This gallery contains data visualizations, animations, interviews with NASA scientists, and a narrated video all related to the flyby.

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Animations and Data Visualizations

  • Narrated Video
    On October 19, Comet Siding Spring will pass within 88,000 miles of Mars – just one third of the distance from the Earth to the Moon! Traveling at 33 miles per second and weighing as much as a small mountain, the comet hails from the outer fringes of our solar system, originating in a region of icy debris known as the Oort cloud. Comets from the Oort cloud are both ancient and rare. Since this is Comet Siding Spring’s first trip through the inner solar system, scientists are excited to learn more about its composition and the effects of its gas and dust on the Mars upper atmosphere. NASA will be watching closely before, during, and after the flyby with its entire fleet of Mars orbiters and rovers, along with the Hubble Space Telescope and dozens of instruments on Earth. The encounter is certain to teach us more about Oort cloud comets, the Martian atmosphere, and the solar system’s earliest ingredients.
  • TV Live Shot
    Comet Siding Spring is a rare comet, and is passing Mars from a mere 88,000 miles as it makes its maiden voyage towards the sun. This close approach to the Red Planet will give NASA's fleet of satellites and rovers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to study this comet up close.
  • Comet Beauty Shots
    On October 19, 2014, Mars will receive a first-time visitor from the outer fringes of the solar system. C/2013 A1, better known as Comet Siding Spring, has been traveling toward the inner solar system for millions of years, and will just miss Mars by a distance of 88,000 miles on October 19 (roughly one-third of the distance from the Earth to the Moon). These animations depict the flyby as seen from orbit above Mars, and as seen from the Martian surface. The blue portion of Comet Siding Spring's tail is composed of ionized gas swept away from the Sun by the solar wind. The gray portion is composed of heavier dust particles, which are moving at 33 miles per second relative to Mars.
  • Comet Trajectory
    These visualizations show MAVEN and Comet Siding Spring making their way through the solar system to a close encounter near Mars. Two wide angle views are included. The first one maintains a fixed camera above the ecliptic plane of the solar system. The second one moves the camera in a bit closer and more parallel with the ecliptic plane as the comet and MAVEN encounter the Martian region.
  • Mars Fleet and Comet
    This visualization shows NASA’s fleet of Mars orbiters, landers, and rovers during the planet’s close encounter with Comet Siding Spring. C/2013 A1, better known as Comet Siding Spring, will make a remarkably close pass of Mars on October 19, 2014. At closest approach, Comet Siding Spring will come within 82,000 miles of the Red Planet – just one-third of the distance from the Earth to the Moon. During the flyby, NASA will position its Mars fleet both to protect it from comet dust, and to make observations of the comet and its effects on the upper atmosphere of Mars.
  • Closest Approach
    This visualization shows active spacecraft orbiting Mars and their relationship to Comet Siding Spring. The comet passes very close to Mars on October 19, 2014. The camera is looking from the direction of the Sun towards Mars. The camera is fixed to Mars and the orbit trail of Mars goes off to the right. As Comet Siding-Spring makes its way through the Martian neighborhood it reaches the closest distance at about 18:32 UT. Debris left by the comet follows behind the comet on the line representing where the comet was. This derbis impacts Mars at about 20:08 UT. Scientists and engineers are concerned that the derbis may harm the spacecraft. Several of the spacecraft have executed orbital maneuvers to put them on the opposite side of Mars when the debris impacts.