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.

June 30, 1997
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download 
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NEAR Mathilde
Credit: NEAR Spacecraft Team, JHUAPL, NASA

Explanation: Hey Earth, look what I found! On the way to visiting the asteroid 433 Eros in February 1999, the Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR) spacecraft flew right by another asteroid: 253 Mathilde last Friday. Shown above is one picture from the encounter. Mathilde is a large chunk of rock roughly 60 kilometers across that orbits the Sun between Mars and Jupiter in the main asteroid belt. Mathilde's surface is very dark and heavily cratered. The NEAR pictures of Mathilde received so far indicate that the asteroid has undergone spectacular collisions, one of which created the huge impact basin in the center, which is estimated to be about 10 kilometers deep.

Tomorrow's picture: Asteroid 253 Mathilde's Large Craters

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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.