Monday, 30 September 2013

NASA Prepares for Ison's flyby of Mars

Tomorrow see's Ison reach it's closest approach to Mars. Ison is going to come within just 10,460,730 km of Mars, six times closer than it will get to Earth!
There are currently 5 active Mars missions which will be turning their attention towards Ison, 2 rovers and 3 orbiters. The best equipped to study Ison are NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) and ESA's Mars Express Orbiter (MEO).

Artists impression of Ison from the surface ofMars

Mars Reconnaissance is equipped with the largest telescope ever taken in to deep space at 20 inches, however it was designed with surface observation, rather than imaging comets! Like wise Mars Express original purpose is also terrestrial mapping and comes equipped with the very impressive HRSC Camera. Between them MRO and MEO should give us some stunning pictures and the most in depth data on Ison so far.  We are hoping to get much more accurate data on her size, the larger she is the more likely she will survive her encounter with the Sun at the end of November.
What's more as she passes Mars she is warming up more causing her tail to grow and increasing her coma. With all these orbiters and rovers pointed in her direction, we should get a fascinating glimpse in to how chunks of ice evolve and grow into the magnificent comets we all know!

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter

All of this is just a small part of the research being conducted on Ison. A grand total of 16 NASA craft will be observing Ison from space along with the Hubble space telescope, 4 ESA spacecraft and every observatory on Earth! Ison is without doubt the most study comet there has ever been, and we are extremely excited to find out what secrets will be unlocked!

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