Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2000 February 5
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download 
 the highest resolution version available.

NEAR to Asteroid Eros
Credit: NEAR Project, JHU APL, NASA

Explanation: On December 23, 1998 the Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR) spacecraft flew by asteroid 433 Eros. The robotic spacecraft was intended to brake and orbit Eros, but an unexpected shutdown of its main engine caused this plan to be aborted. Now closing with the asteroid again, NEAR will make another attempt to enter Eros' orbit on February 14th ... Valentine's Day, of course! A successful encounter would make NEAR the first spacecraft ever to orbit an asteroid. This image sequence was taken as NEAR approached Eros in 1998. The rotation of the asteroid is visible in the successive frames. While cruising through the solar system, NEAR has also been hunting for gamma-ray bursts as part of the operational Interplanetary Network.

Tomorrow's picture: Rings of Supernova 1987A

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
NASA Technical Rep.: Jay Norris. Specific rights apply.
A service of: LHEA at NASA/ GSFC
& Michigan Tech. U.