Over the next year, near the Red Planet will fly two comets. The news itself is neither good nor bad. But it has raised fears of scientists who fear that the particles of cosmic wanderers can damage satellites of Mars involved in surveillance for and study of its surface. Currently, the orbit of the Red Planet is three operating spacecraft-NASA Odyssey mission and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), as well as the European Mars Express. Also, two existing rover currently exploring Mars surface itself- it’s Curiosity and Opportunity. All of these spacecraft will be able to observe the comet ISON, which is closer to Mars this year, and behind her, and C/2013 A1 in 2014.
MRO spacecraft was searching for comets ISON, which, according to experts, can be so bright that will be visible from Earth than any other comet to it, especially after a sweep over the surface of the Sun November 28, 2013. Observations MRO last month showed that ISON was at a distance of one astronomical unit from Mars and 2.5 AU from the Sun (1 AU = 150 million kilometers). Given the distance from the Sun ISON, soon comet would cross the snow line solar system. In this line, many comets begin to glow brighter as the ice begins to quickly turn into a gas by increasing solar radiation. At the moment, the comet has not reached sufficient brightness to be fixed by using the tools MRO.
The current luminosity of the comet ISON was the subject of much debate among astronomers and observers. Icy wanderer received the title of “comet of the century” almost immediately after its launch in September 2012. However, recent observations show that ISON not reach the degree of brightness which was waiting for her at the approach to the Sun. The nearest observation unit for MRO ISON scheduled for September 29, October 1 and 2, when it is close to Mars: the comet will be about 14 times closer than before, and probably it will be easy to spot. Even at the maximum proximity to Mars route comet is that it is not necessary to be afraid, as if its particles can damage or orbiters Mars himself – says Richard Zurek, MRO project scientist and head of the Mars Program Office at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena (JPL).
Curiosity and Opportunity Rovers will also be able to get an image of the comet at the end of September 2013. Spacecraft are currently on Mars and its orbit, will help scientists better understand the comet ISON, although this is not their primary function, and the devices themselves are not designed for this kind of observation: after all, their primary purpose is to own the red planet. However, Mars appears much more favorable view of the flying space strangers than from Earth.