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ISRO's Mangalyaan witnesses cosmic event as Comet Siding Spring flies past the orbiter

Siding Spring (C/2013 A1), made its closest encounter with Mars at 2:27 pm (1827 GMT), racing past the Red Planet at a dazzling 2,03,000 kilometers per hour.

Updated:October 20, 2014, 8:52 AM IST
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ISRO's Mangalyaan witnesses cosmic event as Comet Siding Spring flies past the orbiter
Siding Spring (C/2013 A1), made its closest encounter with Mars at 2:27 pm (1827 GMT), racing past the Red Planet at a dazzling 2,03,000 kilometers per hour.

New Delhi: India's Mars Orbiter mission Mangalyaan witnessed a unique cosmic event on Sunday as Comet Siding Spring flew past the orbiter. A comet the size of a small mountain whizzed past Mars, wowing space enthusiasts with the once-in-a-million-years encounter.

Siding Spring (C/2013 A1), made its closest encounter with Mars at 2:27 pm (1827 GMT), racing past the Red Planet at a dazzling 2,03,000 kilometers per hour.

ISRO had repositioned Mangalyaan to avoid any collision with the comet.

At its closet, Siding Spring was 1,39,500 kilometers from Mars -- less than half the distance between Earth and moon.

"Signal confirming closest approach has just been received," the European Space Agency said on Twitter. Before the comet passed, it could be seen in space racing toward the bright planet, trailed by a tail of debris.

The ball of ice, dust and rocks is believed to have originated billions of years ago in the Oort Cloud, a distant region of space at the outskirts of the solar system.

The comet is around a mile wide and is only about as solid as a pile of talcum powder.

NASA's fleet of Mars-orbiting satellites and robots on the planet's surface were primed for the flyby of the comet, hoping to photograph the rare event.

(With additional information from AFP)

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