Status Report

NEAR Shoemaker Has Eros Covered

By SpaceRef Editor
June 29, 2000
Filed under

To NEAR Shoemaker’s digital camera it was merely another sequence of images. But
the photos of Eros’ south pole snapped in the early hours of June 27 will give NEAR
team members the last pieces of a global puzzle, covering the only ground on Eros
they haven’t seen since the satellite began orbiting the asteroid on Feb. 14.

“We’re filling in the last little gaps,” says Louise Prockter, a member of the NEAR
imaging team at the Applied Physics Laboratory. “Once we process those images, we
will have everything we need for a global mosaic of Eros.”

It’s autumn in the asteroid’s northern hemisphere, which means the sun is illuminating
the southern regions that were shadowed through the first months of NEAR
Shoemaker’s orbit. The camera couldn’t “see” the areas earlier because it needs
reflected light from the surface, so most of the imaging covered the northern sections.

Now that it has a overall view of Eros, the NEAR team can start to train the camera on
specific details among the asteroid’s craters, ridges, grooves, boulders and troughs.
“Every day we see new structures,” Prockter says. “We have seen an incredible variety
of amazing features, and we are recognizing things we’ve seen on other terrestrial
planets and bodies. ”

The NEAR team gets its closest look yet at those features on July 14, when the
spacecraft begins a 10-day, nearly circular orbit just 22 miles (35 kilometers) from the
asteroid’s surface. NEAR Shoemaker descends from its current 31-mile (50-kilometer)
vantage on July 7. The spacecraft is 74 million miles (118 million kilometers) from
Earth, circling Eros at just under 7 miles an hour.

SpaceRef staff editor.