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Mars Orbiter's Spectrometer Shows Oort Comet's Coma

Images From Mars-Orbiting Spectrometer Show Comet's Coma
Mars-Orbiting Spectrometer's Images Show Comet's Coma
These two infrared images of comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring were taken by the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM) aboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter on Oct. 19, 2014. This Oort Cloud comet was making its first voyage through the inner solar system. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/JHUAPL

The Compact Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM) observed comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring as the comet sped close to Mars on Oct. 19. CRISM recorded imaging data in 107 different wavelengths, showing the inner part of the cloud of dust, called the coma, surrounding the comet's nucleus.

Two images from CRISM presenting three of the recorded wavelengths are online at:

Comet Siding Spring -- an Oort Cloud comet that may contain material from the formation of the solar system some 4.6 billion years ago -- was making its first voyage through the inner solar system. CRISM and many other instruments and spacecraft combined forces to provide an unprecedented data set for an Oort Cloud comet.

The appearance of color variations in the CRISM observations of the inner coma could be due to the properties of the comet's dust, possibly dust grain size or composition. The full spectra will be analyzed to better understand the reason for the color variations.

The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Maryland, provided and operates CRISM. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Project for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver built the orbiter.

For more about CRISM, visit:

For more about Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, visit:

For more about comet Siding Spring, including other images of the comet, visit:


Guy Webster
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

Geoffrey Brown
Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory

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