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A Big Year For Small Worlds

Dwarf planets and a couple of comets take center stage this year. Several intriguing comets will trek around the sun this year. Europe's Rosetta spacecraft is on track for the first attempt to land on a comet. Comet Siding Spring will edge by Mars. NASA's Dawn spacecraft arrives at Ceres. Meanwhile, New Horizons will begin warming up for Pluto.

Here's a month-by-month guide to the action.

Color image of comet with huge coma. Text says March. Link to comet page..
Two Comets: Holmes and Faye
Comet 17P/Holmes was very bright on its last trip around the sun in 2007. What will happen this time? Comet 4P/Faye whips around the sun only two days after Holmes.
The Rosetta mission will follow a comet as it approaches the sun and deploy a lander.
Comet Rendezvous: Rosetta:
Europe's Rosetta spacecraft arrives at Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko and remain in close proximity to the icy nucleus as it warms up. Next step: probe landing.
Black and white image of a comet
May Meteor Shower?
Recent observations predict 209P/LINEAR may cause the next big meteor shower which would come from the constellation Camelopardalis. North American views have the potential to be really good.
Graphic showing comet passing close to Mars.
Comet Near Miss at Mars
On Oct. 19, the comet will have a very close pass at Mars, just 86,000 miles (138,000 kilometers) from the planet. Although the nucleus will miss the planet, the comet's coma of dust particles might envelop the Red Planet.
Color illustration of spacecraft landing on comet
Philae: First Landing on Comet
Rosetta's Philae lander will attempt the first landing on the surface of a comet. Philae will use harpoons to anchor itself to comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko and beam data back to Earth for detailed analysis.
Graphic showing spacecraft near Pluto.
Dwarf Planets on Deck: Dawn and New Horizons
NASA's Dawn spacecraft arrives at dwarf planet Ceres in April - the first mission to explore one of this small worlds. Meanwhile, NASA's Pluto-bound New Horizons mission will begin aiming its high resolution camera at Pluto.

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