Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

NEAR Team Reports Exciting First Month Of Asteroid Exploration

Date:
March 14, 2000
Source:
Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory
Summary:
A month after establishing orbit around asteroid Eros, NASA's Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous spacecraft is already astounding scientists with its ever-more detailed views of geologic features and its technical scientific accomplishments.

NEAR team members have found evidence of geologic phenomena that could have originated on a much larger parent body from which Eros was derived. In their search to decipher the mysteries of Eros, they have obtained the first ever laser range returns from an asteroid and the first ever X-ray detection of an asteroid. High-resolution images are surprising scientists by the abundance of ridges, chains of craters, and boulders.

"Eros in our first month of observations has proven to be a marvelous and fascinating object," says Dr. Andrew F. Cheng, NEAR Project Scientist from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md., which manages the mission for NASA.

NEAR's first X-ray detection of Eros demonstrated the presence of magnesium, iron, and silicon and possibly aluminum and calcium. Their detection was the result of a brilliant solar flare on March 2, when NEAR was 131 miles (212 kilometers) from Eros. That solar explosion made it possible for the spacecraft's X-ray spectrometer to view the asteroid from four times farther away than it was designed to do. "The solar X-ray burst caused elements on the asteroid to react and emit fluorescent X-rays that were measured by the spectrometer," says Dr. Jacob I. Trombka of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, who heads the X-ray/gamma ray instrument team. "It was only a 600-second window of opportunity but it is a huge bonus for the mission. This detection at the higher orbit gives us confidence in our ability to develop elemental maps when we're at our operational orbit of 50 kilometers," he says.

In what is the first detection of a laser return from an asteroid, the spacecraft's laser rangefinder, operating 180 miles (290 kilometers) from Eros, measured topographic profiles of chains of pits or craters.

As we accumulate more data we will be able to determine if the features are from erosion, fault lines, tectonic stress lines, or other events," says Dr. Maria T. Zuber of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, who heads the laser rangefinder science team.

In the last two weeks, the NEAR multispectral imager has returned more than 2,400 images. The spacecraft has been in a nearly circular orbit around Eros, traveling approximately 124 miles (200 kilometers) from the asteroid's center, and taking images closer to an asteroid than has ever been done before. The unprecedented images show chains of craters, numerous boulders as small as 55 yards (50 meters) across, and long ridges that extend for several kilometers across the surface.

Conspicuous on many of the crater walls are bright markings that Dr. Peter C. Thomas of Cornell University says are part of the loose, fragmental material on the surface, called regolith. This material appears to vary in properties across the asteroid, perhaps in response to impact cratering events. "We have found that Eros is literally covered with craters smaller than about 1 mile (1.6 km) in diameter," says Dr. Clark R. Chapman of Southwest Research Institute. Both Drs. Thomas and Chapman are members of the multispectral imager and near-infrared spectrometer science team.

On April 1, the spacecraft will begin descending toward a 62-mile (100-kilometer) orbit, where the resolution of the imager will more than double. By the mission's end in February 2001, the total surface will have been imaged, measured and analyzed.

For the latest images and announcements of mission progress and discoveries visit the NEAR Web site: http://near.jhuapl.edu


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. "NEAR Team Reports Exciting First Month Of Asteroid Exploration." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 March 2000. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/03/000313173526.htm>.
Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. (2000, March 14). NEAR Team Reports Exciting First Month Of Asteroid Exploration. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/03/000313173526.htm
Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. "NEAR Team Reports Exciting First Month Of Asteroid Exploration." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/03/000313173526.htm (accessed September 30, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

The Water You Drink Might Be Older Than The Sun

The Water You Drink Might Be Older Than The Sun

Newsy (Sep. 27, 2014) — Researchers at the University of Michigan simulated the birth of planets and our sun to determine whether water in the solar system predates the sun. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
First Woman Cosmonaut in 17 Years Blasts Off for ISS

First Woman Cosmonaut in 17 Years Blasts Off for ISS

AFP (Sep. 26, 2014) — A Russian Soyuz spacecraft carrying an American astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts, including the first woman cosmonaut in 17 years, blasted off on schedule Friday. Duration: 00:35 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Water Discovery On Small Planet Could Be Key To Earth 2.0

Water Discovery On Small Planet Could Be Key To Earth 2.0

Newsy (Sep. 25, 2014) — Scientists have discovered traces of water in the atmosphere of a distant, Neptune-sized planet. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: US-Russian Crew Lifts Off for Space Station

Raw: US-Russian Crew Lifts Off for Space Station

AP (Sep. 25, 2014) — A U.S.-Russian space crew has blasted off successfully for the International Space Station. The Russian Soyuz-TMA14M spacecraft lifted off from the Russian-leased Baikonur launch facility in Kazakhstan. (Sept. 25) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins