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Preparing for A-MAVEN Science!

A couple of days ago we received the great news that we have a new member of the Mars Orbiter family: MAVEN. The Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission (MAVEN) spacecraft successfully entered orbit around Mars on September 21st, 2014, marking the beginning of an extremely exciting mission that promises to unlock many of the secrets of the Martian atmosphere.

Coming in Fast and Low

Observing of comet siding spring is starting to heat up around here. Starting next Monday, I'll be observing the comet from the 3.5m APO optical and 3m NASA/IRTF infrared telescopes, taking advantage of the comets closest approach to the earth this month. It will still be a challenging object, though, quite far south and so low on the horizon and at highest altitude near sunset.

So Close and Yet So Far: Why isn't Siding Spring going to sandblast Mars?

Comet Siding Spring (C/2013 A1) is going to make a very close approach to Mars on October 19, 2014, passing only 131,000 km from the planet (from the current orbit solution). With a relative speed of 56 km/sec, any comet dust that reaches Mars has the potential to inflict significant damage on the spacecraft orbiting the planet. As it turns out, however, Mars and its orbiters are likely to see very few, if any, impacts. Why?

Siding Spring Risk Assessment: Addendum

Following my last blog post about the risk assessment of comet Siding Spring buzzing Mars in October, the Planetary Society kindly reposted the entry on their site as well. If you look at their version of my post, you'll see that Editor Emily Lakdawalla has made an excellent observation near the end of the page. She notes that:

Comet Siding Spring: Risk Assessment

Umm... should those two be quite that close together??

The Start of Something Big

Dear Reader,

Kicking Off the Siding Spring Campaign!

For a while now we've been doing the ground-work on an observing campaign for comet C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring). Hopefully you know why this comet is particularly interesting, but on the off-chance that you don't, here are the main bullets:

You Thought You Were Rid of Us...

...but we're baa-aack!!

Didn't mean to make that sound creepy but, like a bad conspiracy theory, we never really go away.


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