In Photos: Comet Siding Spring buzzes Mars

Watch the video above: NASA explains just how close Comet Siding Spring came to Mars.

TORONTO – It didn’t collide with Mars as initially anticipated, but Comet Siding Spring still put on a great show.

The comet — officially designated C/2013 A1 — was discovered in January 2013 and astronomers eagerly anticipated its trip by Mars.

It’s believed that this is the first time the comet paid our inner solar system a visit. Data suggest that it originates from the Oort Cloud, a vast collection of icy bodies that surrounds our solar system. Every so often something dislodges one of them and sends them into orbit around the sun.

READ MORE: 5 interesting things about Comet Siding Spring’s close encounter with Mars

As the comet neared Mars, astronomers around the world turned their telescopes toward the red planet.

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Comet Siding Spring fast approaching Mars
Renowned astrophotographer Damian Peach captured Comet C2013 A1 on Oct. 11 from California. Courtesy Damian Peach
Comet Siding Spring captured by Italian Rolando Ligustri
Using a remote telescope in Australia, Italian astronomer Rolando Ligustri captured Comet Siding Spring as it approached Mars on Oct. 19. Courtesy Rolando Ligustri

The comet, when first discovered, was thought to be on a collision course with Mars. As the comet neared, astronomers refined their calculations which placed it a safe distance from the planet. However, it was still a close shave: it passed within 139,000 km, about one-third the distance between Earth and the moon.

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Comet Siding Spring as it passes Mars
Comet Siding Spring as it passed Mars on Oct. 19. Courtesy Rolando Ligustri

Shortly after the flyby, NASA reported that all of its spacecraft — three orbiters and two rovers — were safe and sound.

In orbit around Mars was NASA’s HiRISE spacecraft. It took high resolution images at a distance of 138,000 kilometres.


The rover Opportunity, turned one of its cameras to the sky, capturing a faint fuzz in the sky, likely the comet.

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Comet Siding Spring
Is this Comet Siding Spring as seen from Mars? This image of a ‘faint fuzzy’ was photographed by NASA’s Opportunity rover. Courtesy NASA/JPL

NASA intends to further study the passage of the small comet. In particular, its MAVEN spacecraft — which arrived at the end of September — will study how the Martian atmosphere was affected (if at all) by the particles from the passing body.