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 14
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An Unexpected Asteroid Valentine
Credit: NEAR Project, JHU APL, NASA

Explanation: Maybe the Moon owns our hearts, but this won't stop the occasional asteroid from sending us a valentine. Friday, to the surprise of many, the NEAR mission on approach to asteroid 433 EROS photographed what appears to be a heart-shaped depression. After NEAR reaches the asteroid today, NASA plans a series of maneuvers to make the robot spacecraft the first ever to orbit an asteroid. More detailed pictures will soon be taken of the 33 kilometer long asteroid EROS and this 5 kilometer long depression. Most likely, fortuitous lighting and viewing angles accentuate the apparent heart shape -- but don't tell the Moon.

Tomorrow's picture: Spiral with an Unusual Core

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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.