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.

2001 February 6
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download 
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Touchdown Site on Asteroid Eros
Credit: NEAR Project, JHU APL, NASA

Explanation: The first controlled descent of a spacecraft onto an asteroid is scheduled to occur next week. The robot spacecraft NEAR-Shoemaker has been orbiting asteroid Eros for nearly one year On February 12, before maneuvering fuel wanes, NASA will command the craft to descend right down onto the surface. Although the spacecraft is not expected to survive the impact, it is hoped that it can transmit photographs showing surface details as small as 10 centimeters during the descent. The touchdown site, shown above by the yellow circle, is on the edge of the large saddle shaped feature known as Himeros, and near the boundary between two distinct types of surface terrain.

Tomorrow's picture: Bright Blue Star Field

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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.