As we await a close-up view of comet Siding Spring making its closest approach with Mars, astronomers on Earth have been busy doing some of their own comet spotting from afar.
NEWS: Ready for Prime Time: Comet to Buzz Mars on Sunday
In this beautiful piece of astrophotography by Nick Howes and Ron Wodaski of the Tzec Maun Foundation, Mars is the brightest object in view. But just below and to the right, the faint blue glow of comet Siding Spring can be seen.
Siding Spring passed within 85,000 miles of the Red Planet's surface at 18:27 UTC (2:27 p.m. EDT) on Sunday and our fleet of robotic explorers were primed to observe the comet up-close. This was a once-in-a-lifetime event where a comet came to us, rather than us going to it.
PHOTO: Hubble Zooms-in on Mars-Buzzing Comet Siding Spring
Mars is the second most populated planet in the solar system, albeit populated by robots. We have 5 satellites in orbit and 2 rovers on the surface of Mars, all of which were watching this lump of ice and rock swing past.
So as we enjoy stunning astronomical views of Siding Spring and Mars united, we can start to get excited for the first intimate photographs from our robotic emissaries orbiting around, and roving on, Mars.