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.

January 26, 1998
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Interplanetary Spacecraft Passes Earth
Credit & Copyright: P. Jenniskens (NASA /ARC/ Leonid98)

Explanation: Last Thursday an interplanetary spacecraft flew right past the Earth. The above images show sunlight momentarily reflected from this spacecraft's solar panels. No aliens were involved - the Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR) mission actually originated from Earth. Launched in 1996, NEAR zipped past the asteroid 253 Mathilde last June. This Earth flyby gravitationally deflects NEAR onto a trajectory passing the asteroid 433 Eros next year. Above, NEAR appears to move through the constellation of Perseus, as clouds created a changing diffuse white glow. NEAR was only visible for about 2 minutes from San Jose, California, where these image-intensified video camera observations were taken.

Tomorrow's picture: The Great Nebula in Orion

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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.