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Celestial Ballet

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This video assembled from images collected by the Hubble Space Telescope reveals the paths followed by Mars and the comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring as they passed like two ships in the night on Oct. 19.

The comet, a primordial body from the Oort Cloud at the far outer reaches of the Solar System, rises through the orbital plane of Mars as it continues on its orbit from right to left.

At their closest approach, the planet and the comet were only about 87,000 miles apart, passing at a closing speed of 126,000 mph.

The five spacecraft orbiting Mars, and at least a dozen others elsewhere in space, used the event as a “free flight” to study a pristine object that formed before the Earth and had never been exposed to the damaging effects of the solar wind.

 

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