Sunday, October 19, 2014

Comet Buzzes Mars in Once-in-a-Lifetime Flyby

By on 10:46 PM

A comet zoomed by Mars today (Oct. 19) in an extremely rare close encounter that scientists billed as a "once-in-a-lifetime" event that may help researchers better understand the earliest days of our solar system.

Comet Siding Spring came within just 87,000 miles (139,500 kilometers) of the Martian surface at 2:27 p.m. EDT (1827 GMT) today — about one-third of the distance between Earth and the moon. At the time of closest approach, the comet barreled by at 126,000 mph (203,000 km/h) relative to the Red Planet, NASA officials said.

All seven spacecraft currently operating on or around Mars were scheduled to observe the close shave, with the aim of learning more about comet composition and behavior. [See photos of Comet Siding Spring]

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