NASA: Comet bombarded Mars sky with meteor shower

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Friday, November 7, 2014
Mars comet
This handout artist's concept shows the Comet Siding Spring approaching Mars, shown with NASA's orbiters preparing to make science observations of this unique encounter.

WASHINGTON -- A pristine distant comet created a rare fireworks show above Mars last month.

New NASA data from satellites circling Mars shows that when Comet Siding Spring skimmed the red planet, tons of comet dust bombarded the Martian sky with thousands of fireballs an hour. It warped the Martian atmosphere leaving all sorts of metals and an eerie yellow afterglow on Oct. 19.

It was a larger dust assault on the planet than NASA scientists anticipated.

University of Colorado scientist Nick Schneider said the meteor shower - maybe even a storm - needed human eyes to appreciate it from the Martian surface. It was a bombardment of light that still cameras on rovers couldn't capture.

He said it was probably mind-blowing.

NASA released the data Friday.