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 October 27
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download 
 the highest resolution version available.

Close To Eros
Credit: NEAR Project, JHU APL, NASA

Explanation: Scroll right and fly close over asteroid Eros! This long mosaic was constructed of images returned yesterday by the NEAR Shoemaker spacecraft as it orbited to within 6.4 kilometers of a spot in the southern hemisphere of the rotating asteroid's surface. That distance (about 21,000 feet) is less than the cruising altitude of most commercial airline flights. The digital images show that while many regions appear smooth with craters filled in by an accumulation of loose regolith, much of Eros' surface is littered with rocks and boulders. The large boulder glinting in the sunlight at the far left, just above the center of the mosaic, spans approximately 25 meters. In the high-resolution view, the smallest rocks visible are roughly human-sized at about 1.4 meters (5 feet) across. The car-sized Near Shoemaker spacecraft is now on its way to a higher, more stable orbit about 200 kilometers above asteroid Eros.

Tomorrow's picture: The Moon Also Rises

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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.