It was a rarest of the rare coincidence. A close flyby of a comet near Mars with three orbiters in close vicinity. The tree orbiters were Mars Odyssey, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) orbiter.
It however also put the orbiters in a dangerous situation but still allowed a rare opportunity to study the comet at close range. The giant comet named A1 Siding Spring, buzzed past Mars in the close proximity of NASA’s three orbiters.
NASA was worried that the release of dust from the comet, which could potentially cause damage to the parts of the orbiter.
In a preemptive move, NASA ordered all the orbiters to move behind the red planet to minimize the exposure to the particles from the Comet.
NASA reported Sunday,”The comet sped past Mars today much closer than any other know comet flyby of a planet.”
The comet known as A1 Siding Spring came close to the orbiter and gave the orbiters a chance to study the comet up close. The Odyssey for example took images with the aid of its Thermal Emission Imaging System. Odyssey was also tasked with studying how the comet’s dust and gas emissions might impact Mars’ atmosphere
The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter was behind the Red Planet to avoid the comet but it did study the high-velocity dust particles and how the tail interacted with the Mars’ atmosphere. Maven which is the latest orbiter but it still was tasked with the task of collecting data on the comet.