Speed Reads

Close call

Mars will have a very close encounter with a comet on Sunday

On Sunday, all eyes will be on Mars as a comet comes incredibly close to the red planet, at a distance of less than 87,000 miles.

Comet Siding Spring — named after the Australian observatory where it was discovered last year — is about 5 miles wide. It started making its way from the remote Oort cloud a few million years ago, and it will be the first from this region studied by a spacecraft. While NASA plans on moving its orbiters from the comet's dust trail just to be on the safe side, the Curiosity rover and the Hubble Space Telescope will attempt to capture images of the comet. "This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," planetary scientist Roger Yelle of the University of Arizona told USA Today.

On this planet, people in South Africa and Australia will be able to see the comet through the assistance of binoculars. If you were on Mars, you'd see shooting stars and an aurora, and possibly an intense fireball.