Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter observation of Comet C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring)

Thursday, 18 December 2014: 10:35 AM
Leslie Tamppari1, Richard W Zurek2, Bruce A Cantor3, W. A. Delamere4, Anthony Egan5, David C Humm6, David M Kass2, Alfred S McEwen7, Andy McGovern6, Roger J Phillips5, Marco Restano8 and Roberto Seu9, (1)Jet Propulsion Lab/CALTECH, Pasadena, CA, United States, (2)Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA, United States, (3)Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego, CA, United States, (4)Delamere Space Sciences, Boulder, CO, United States, (5)Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, CO, United States, (6)Johns Hopkins Univ, Annapolis, MD, United States, (7)University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, United States, (8)University of Rome La Sapienza, Dipartimento di Ingegneria dell’Informazione, Elettronica e Telecomunicazioni, Rome, Italy, (9)Università La Sapienza, Dipartimento di Ingegneria dell’Informazione, Rome, Italy
The Mars orbiting spacecraft, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, will observe Comet C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring) for 5 days around the comet-Mars closest approach, Oct. 19, 2014. MRO carries 7 investigations, of which 6 will be used to observe the comet or search for comet particle effects on Mars. MRO focuses on three science objectives for Comet Siding Spring observations. First, MRO will observe the comet nucleus near the comet-Mars closest approach (131,000 ± 3,000 km) to attempt to determine nucleus size, rotation, and shape. This objective utilizes the HiRISE (high-resolution) camera which has 131 m/pixel at closest approach. The CRISM instrument (VIS-NIR imaging spectrometer) with >8 km/pixel, and the Context camera (CTX) with >3 km/pixel will also take measurements. Second, MRO will observe the comet coma and tail with the intent of gaining information on composition and morphology utilizing spectral and spatial coverage of the same three instruments. In particular, HiRISE covers 0.4-1.0 μm in 3 bands, with 1 microrad/pixel, CRISM which covers 0.4-3.9 μm at 6.55 nm/channel and 2.1 deg field-of-view, and CTX which has an almost 6 deg field-of-view, covering 0.5-0.8 μm. Third, MRO will observe the Mars atmosphere and ionosphere to detect potential atmospheric heating or cloud formation and changes in total electron column density, using the MCS (atmospheric profiling instrument), the MARCI (weather camera), and the SHARAD (shallow radar instrument, sensitive to ionospheric total electron count). The preliminary results of the Comet C/2013 A1 MRO observations will be presented.