A Closer Look at Comet Siding Spring. First Orbiter Images Released

You’ve seen comet Siding Spring from Earth. Now, NASA is releasing images from the orbiters and rovers from Mars.

The image below was taken with the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera onboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

Siding Spring from Orbiter

The images taken from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter are the highest-resolution views ever snapped from a comet originating in the Oort Cloud. These images were taken from about 86,000 miles away with each pixel representing around 150 yards.

Here’s where it gets interesting. Observers using telescopes have estimated the comet’s nucleus to be about a half mile wide. The above image suggests it’s less than half that estimate.

NASA’s Mars rovers weren’t left out of the viewing party. NASA Rover Opportunity snapped the picture below with its panoramic camera.

Siding Spring rover

Here’s a GIF showing two exposures of comet Siding Spring as seen from the surface of Mars.

rover exposure

“It’s excitingly fortunate that this comet came so close to Mars to give us a chance to study it with the instruments we’re using to study Mars,” said Opportunity science team member Mark Lemmon of Texas A&M University, who coordinated the camera pointing. “The views from Mars rovers, in particular, give us a human perspective, because they are about as sensitive to light as our eyes would be.”

You can keep up with the latest images of comet Siding Spring here. I’ll also keep you updated as new images/data are released.

Image credits: NASA

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