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Near scientist Andrew Cheng
Is Eros a single solid rock or a lose pile of smaller rocks?
 real 28k

The BBC's Sue Nelson reports
The asteroid is roughly the same size as the Isle of Wight
 real 28k

Near scientist William Boynton
"We can find out what asteroids are made of"
 real 28k

Near success
Confirmation that Near was in orbit around Eros
 real 28k

Tuesday, 15 February, 2000, 11:39 GMT
Near probe gets down to business

Eros The impact crater is five km wide

The Near spacecraft has returned its first pictures since going into a 330-km orbit around the asteroid Eros.

The main image on this page shows a five-kilometre-wide impact crater on the potato-shaped space rock. Features as small as 30 metres across can be picked out.

"The picture shows evidence of layering and other structures, like grooves and rims. There's a lot of geologic complexity," said Professor Joe Veverka, the leader of Near's imaging team.

Eros Eros is 34 km (21 miles) long...
"Global structures like grooves suggest severe collisions. It looks like Eros will turn out to be an extremely interesting object."

The image also shows where a boulder has slid to the bottom of the bowl-shaped depression under the influence of the asteroid's feeble gravity.

"We planned for this crater to be at the centre of the camera's field of view after we entered orbit," said Professor Veverka. "We pointed the camera and there it was. That shows we're doing pretty well."

All the craters picked out on the surface will eventually receive a name from the International Astronomical Union. The theme for naming craters will be love and lovers.

Near's flawless manoeuvre into orbit around Eros on Valentine's Day has been greeted with huge excitement. Nasa chief Dan Goldin was seen to "high five" with mission scientists.

Earth defence

Eros is 34 km (21 miles) long and 13 km (8 miles) wide. The encounter with the Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (Near) spacecraft took place 257 million km (160 million miles) from Earth.

The probe, the first to orbit a minor body in the Solar System, will spend a year conducting research that one day may help mankind defend the Earth against a killer asteroid like the one thought to have wiped out the dinosaurs.

Eros ...and 13 km (8 miles) wide
The $224 million spacecraft will descend into lower and lower orbits. Later this year, it may actually brush the asteroid's surface with a solar panel and photograph the mark it leaves.

A lingering danger to Near are moons of Eros - if they exist.

"We looked for moons of Eros during the December 1998 flyby," said Professor Veverka. "And last month, we had three sequences looking for moons. If there is an object bigger than 20 metres, we would have seen it."

Near has five instruments that will map and probe every surface centimetre of Eros. The instruments will measure density, chemical composition and magnetic fields.

According to mission controllers, an experiment using Near's infrared spectrometer was successfully completed just before the probe went into orbit. The data are now being studied and the results will be released on Thursday.

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Launch console

See also:
14 Feb 00 |  Sci/Tech
Spacecraft fulfils Valentine's date
12 Feb 00 |  Sci/Tech
Probe nears its rocky target
12 Feb 00 |  Sci/Tech
Happy Valentine's from Mars
04 Jan 00 |  Sci/Tech
Saving the world from asteroids
09 Feb 99 |  Sci/Tech
Eros brought down to size
22 Jul 99 |  Sci/Tech
Gold rush in space?

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