Press Release

NEAR Snaps New Approach Photos of Eros

By SpaceRef Editor
January 17, 2000
Filed under

Applied Physics Laboratory

Johns Hopkins University

Laurel, Maryland

NEAR Mission Status

The photo album of “NEAR’s trip to Eros” has a new page: the first image from the spacecraft’s approach
to the asteroid. Taken Jan. 12 with NEAR’s Multispectral Imager, the picture was posted today on the NEAR
Web site. More photos will follow in the weeks leading up to NEAR’s Feb. 14 rendezvous with Eros.

Snapped from 27,200 miles (45,350 kilometers) away, Eros appears only as a white speck on the black
background of deep space. However, mission navigators use these early images to confirm the asteroid’s
location and keep the spacecraft on the right course. The NEAR team also uses them to measure variations
in the light reflected off Eros, a key to determining the asteroid’s exact rotation.

NEAR is now about 22,500 miles (or 35,300 kilometers) from its target — closer than the distance at which
most weather and communications satellites orbit the Earth.


Distant image of Eros taken January 12, 2000

This distant image of the asteroid Eros was taken on January 12, 2000 from the Near Earth Asteroid
Rendezvous (NEAR) spacecraft. The image was taken at a range of 27,200 miles (45,350 km) while the
spacecraft approached the asteroid at a velocity of 43 miles per hour (19 meters per second). At that time
NEAR was 170 million miles (274 million kilometers) from Earth. Eros is a very elongated object about 21 by 8
by 8 miles (33 by 13 by 13 kilometers) in size. In this view the asteroid is illuminated by the Sun from the
right. During the next month NEAR will continue to approach Eros at a low velocity, and the asteroid will
appear progressively larger in images returned from the spacecraft. On February 14 NEAR will fire its
thrusters and begin to orbit Eros, becoming the first artificial satellite of any asteroid.


SpaceRef staff editor.