Sunday, February 12, 2012

February 12, 2001- NASA's NEAR Shoemaker touched down on asteroid Eros

433 Eros is a near-Earth asteroid (NEA) discovered in 1898, and the first asteroid to be orbited by a probe (in 2000). It is an S-type asteroid approximately 34.4×11.2×11.2 km in size, the second-largest NEA after 1036 Ganymed, and belongs to the Amor group.

Eros is a Mars-crosser asteroid, the first known to come within the orbit of Mars. Objects in such an orbit can remain there for only a few hundred million years before the orbit is perturbed by gravitational interactions. Dynamical integrations suggest that Eros may evolve into an Earth-crosser within as short an interval as 2 million years, and has a roughly 50% chance of doing so over a time scale of 108–109 years. It is a potential Earth impactor, believed to be larger than the impactor that created the Chicxulub Crater that led to the extinction of the dinosaurs.

The NEAR Shoemaker probe visited Eros twice, first with a 1998 flyby, and then by orbiting it in 2000 when it extensively photographed its surface. On February 12, 2001, at the end of its mission, it landed on the asteroid's surface using its maneuvering jets.

The rarely used adjectival form of the name Eros is Erotian

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