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 12
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download 
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Approaching Asteroid Eros
Credit: NEAR Project, JHU APL, NASA

Explanation: Today, at about 3 pm EST, the first human-made spacecraft is scheduled to touchdown on an asteroid. At an impact speed of 8 kilometers per hour, it is most probable that the robot spacecraft NEAR-Shoemaker will not survive its planned collision with 433 Eros. A primary reason for the descent, diagrammed above, will be to take images during the four hours on the way down. If all goes well, some of those pictures will show surface features as small as 10 centimeters across. Scientists hope to learn more about this unusual Manhattan-sized rock that is, quite possibly, older than the Earth.

Tomorrow's picture: Just Above Asteroid Eros

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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.