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 May 25

Eros Horizon View
Credit: NEAR Project, JHU APL, NASA

Explanation: Since April 30, the robotic NEAR-Shoemaker spacecraft has been orbiting only 31 miles from asteroid Eros. Cruising over the asteroid's north and south poles at a leisurely 7 miles per hour, the spacecraft completes an orbit once every 1.2 earth days. This dramatic horizon view recorded by the spacecraft's camera on May 18 spans about 0.8 miles and reveals features as small as 13 feet across. Emphasized by long, harsh shadows produced by the low sun angle, the rolling surface of Eros is seen to be strewn with boulders and craters with a range of sizes. The jagged-looking boulder near the picture center is over 190 feet tall. While gathering sharp pictures of Eros' surface, experimenters will also take advantage of the close orbit to explore the asteroid's surface composition and internal structure, and search for a magnetic field.

Tomorrow's picture: Pluto

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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.