Spaceflight Now: Breaking News

NEAR delivers a scientific sneak peek
Posted: Feb. 17, 2000

  First orbit image
The first image of Eros taken after NEAR entered orbit on Monday. Photo: JHU/APL
The NEAR team has a whole year to study Eros, but its first peek at the data from NEAR's orbit around the asteroid offers an exciting glimpse of what lies ahead.

"So far, what we've seen is better than what we expected," said Dr. Andrew Cheng, NEAR project scientist. "Eros has a fascinating story."

The details of that story will take months to uncover, but the early science returns from NEAR's final approach and Feb. 14 meeting with Eros offer glimpses of complex surface features, colors representing various minerals, layers and grooves within craters, and small boulders scattered across the space rock. For example, the first image taken after NEAR went into orbit shows a crater 6 kilometers wide in the center of the asteroid - and a boulder that appears to have rolled into it.

"Gravity on Eros is small - about one thousandth of what is here on Earth - so that's a crater that you could easily jump out of if you were on Eros," said Dr. Joseph Veverka, who leads the NEAR imaging team. "But in spite of that, the gravity on the asteroid is strong enough to make boulders roll downhill. So there's a lot of exciting geology and this is only the beginning. We're looking forward to a whole year of images."

The NEAR team will present the latest images and early scientific findings during a press conference at NASA headquarters on Feb. 17.

Mission Status Center
Read reports on NEAR's orbit insertion in Spaceflight Now Mission Status Center.

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