Spaceflight Now: Breaking News

NEAR snaps new approach photos of asteroid Eros
Posted: Feb. 1, 2000

On Janunary 29 the multispectral imager on the NEAR spacecraft acquired the fourth in a series of color image sequences that will be taken during NEAR's approach to the asteroid 433 Eros.

NEAR's gallery of Eros views from January 29. Photo: JHU/APL

This montage shows 12 views of Eros, one every 30 degrees of Eros's rotation for one 5.27-hour Eros "day." The time index at the bottom of each image (in Greenwich Mean Time) shows when it was acquired. When these images were acquired, NEAR was approximately 10,700 miles (17,100 km) from the asteroid. Since regular approach imaging began Jan 11, the apparent size of the asteroid has increased by 150 percent as the spacecraft closes in.

At this resolution of 1.1 miles (1.7 km) per pixel, the peanut-like shape of Eros is apparent. A detailed shape model of Eros was constructed from NEAR flyby images taken in December 1998. At that time the Sun illuminated Eros's southern hemisphere. In the views shown here the northern hemisphere is illuminated, showing the face of Eros that was not imaged during the 1998 flyby.

On February 14 NEAR will fire its thrusters and begin to orbit Eros, becoming the first artificial satellite of any asteroid. NEAR is designed to return science data to answer fundamental questions about the origin and composition of asteroids, comets and our solar system.

Built and managed by The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Maryland, NEAR was the first spacecraft launched in NASA's Discovery Program of low-cost, small-scale planetary missions.

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