PIA15291 Comet Siding Spring seen from CRISM Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter
Imaged: Sunday 19th October 2014.
These two infrared images were taken of comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, during the comet’s close flyby of Mars and the spacecraft. Comet Siding Spring is on its first trip this close to the sun from the Oort Cloud at the outer fringe of the solar system.
The Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM) camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter captured views of comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring while that visitor sped past Mars on Sunday 19th October 2014, yielding information about its inner and outer coma. CRISM used all 107 infrared channels to image the comet, in these images three colour channels were used.
CRISM is usually used to determine the mineral content of the martian surface and has also helped determine the chemical makeup of the mars facing sides if both martian moons Phobos and Deimos. CRISM has now proven to be effective at assising the composition of this very primitive comet from the Oort Cloud or even intersteller space.
Images were obtained at 18:16 HRS UTC and 18:53 HRS UTC.
Other spacecraft have approached and studied comets with shorter orbits. This comet’s flyby of Mars provided spacecraft at the Red Planet an opportunity to investigate from close range.
The nucleus was tiny, barely 400 metres wide. The two sets of images were taken nine minutes apart. Top set the actual nucleus, bottom set including the inner coma.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/JHUAPL. CRISM.