Mars has always been the centre of attraction for many researchers and scientists. And recently scientists have discovered some astonishing facts about the interaction of comet Siding Spring with Mars that took place three years ago. On October 19, 2014, Comet C/2103, known as the Siding Spring came very close to the red planet and this encounter was defined as the closest encounter by a comet in the recorded history.
At its closest approach, comet Siding Spring was only 90,000 miles away from Mars, and this distance is measured to be one-third of the total distance between our Earth and its Moon. At the time of interaction, the tail of the comet dumped heavy debris towards the thin atmosphere of Mars, and to observe this exciting meteor shower event, various space agencies coordinated multiple spacecraft. The meteor shower was the largest in the recorded History.
But now scientists have found out that the Sun was also involved in this special event. It had actually launched a very powerful and intense coronal mass ejection (CME) towards Mars just 44 hours before the comet interaction. Actually, CME is a giant cloud of solar plasma drenched with magnetic field lines that are blown away from the Sun during strong, long-duration solar flares and filament eruptions.
During a special session of the European Planetary Science Congress (EPSC) 2017 in Riga, Latvia, many eminent scientists told that the CME coming out of the sun resulted in significant disturbances in the upper atmosphere of Mars and thus complicated the analysis of the data.
Beatriz Sanchez-Cano of the University of Leicester informed that the comet interaction with Mars was one of the most exciting events as at that time Mars was literally engulfed by the coma (comet’s outer atmosphere) for many hours. But when the data of the closest comet interaction with Mars was studied closely, it was found out that the CME interaction by the Sun with Mars complicated the analysis process. Also as at that time Mars was at the peak of its dust season, hence scientists were not able to get a clearer picture of real cometary effects on Mars. But the close encounter of Comet Siding Spring with Mars was a very interesting event as this type of rare event happens only once in every 100,000 years.
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