A heavy load of dust cast off by the comet Siding Spring 2013 as it hurtled past Mars last month could have damaged the fleet of scientific orbiters circling the planet, had they not tweaked their orbits to be as far away from potential danger as possible. Scientists presenting preliminary results from the Oct. 19 encounter on Nov. 7 said they detected far more dust entering the Martian atmosphere as the planet passed behind the comet than they had expected. That, combined with the fantastic ...

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