ISRO’s Mars Orbiter or the Mangalyaan, as it’s lovingly called in India has managed to capture images of the comet Siding Spring through its color camera. These pictures have been released on a day which saw the European Space Agency’s robot Philae successfully land on another comet, 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.
The images which ISRO’s Mars Orbiter has sent back were part of an ordeal which took place on October 19, 2014. Siding Spring had approached the red planed on the said date, and the Indian spacecraft had to reposition itself to stay out of its reach.
The Mars Orbiter also famously tweeted, ‘Phew! Experience of a lifetime. Watched the Mars comet SidingSpring whizzing past the planet. I’m in my orbit, safe and sound.’ During the last 40 minutes of this encounter, the spacecraft managed to click the all-important images of the comet which we can watch right now.
What we’re seeing here are photographs of Siding Spring’s Coma, which means the top bright portion of a comet. The sequence of photographs depicts the movement of the Coma from 1.8 lakh kilometers away from the Mars Orbiter to just 1.3 lakh kilometers near it.
ISRO has also gone on to reveal that the image at the center which shows a streak radiating out of the comet’s nucleus is actually showing us the out-gassing activity from vents of the comet’s nucleus. Dust and ice crystals are being emitted by the comet, and this out-gassing increases gradually as it moves closer to the sun.
While its Mars Orbiter continues to bring us more interesting images and important information, ISRO is also busy at work preparing for the experimental launch of the GSLV-Mk III which will act as a vehicle for advanced satellites in the future.