PerspectivePlanetary Science

Comet Siding Spring, up close and personal

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Science  16 Oct 2015:
Vol. 350, Issue 6258, pp. 277-278
DOI: 10.1126/science.aac7879

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On 19 October 2014, a comet from the very edge of our solar system flew extremely closely by our sister planet Mars. Using an international fleet of modern spacecraft orbiting above and roving on the surface of the planet, scientists found that the comet consists of a kilometer-sized dirty iceball emitting gas and dust from numerous jets. The comet survived its extremely close passage by Mars without much change. It did, however, dump appreciable amounts of material into the martian atmosphere, and the effects from this material lingered for days. These observations of a comet from the surface and sky of another planet herald an era of solar system study based on multiple observations from stations throughout the solar system.