253 Mathilde images from NEAR

Eric Watt Forste (arkuat@pobox.com)
Wed, 23 Jul 1997 21:42:18 -0700

A few weeks ago, the NEAR spacecraft on its way to 433 Eros took
some photos of 253 Mathilde on a fast flyby. 253 Mathilde is only
the third asteroid (unless you count Ida's tiny moon Dactyl) to be
imaged from close proximity, after Galileo's Ida and Gaspra.

Images are available at:


253 Mathilde is the first carbonaceous chondrite asteroid to be
thus imaged. Carbonaceous chondrites are richer in volatiles
containing carbon atoms than are the stony sort of asteroid
represented by Gaspra and Ida. This is interesting because carbon
atoms will probably be extremely important to all future forms of

The NEAR spacecraft is scheduled to go into orbit around 433 Eros
sometime in February of 1999, and settle in for long-term study.
Personally, I find this much more exciting than the recent Martian
hoopla. 433 Eros accounts for about half the mass of all the
asteroids that cross inside Earth's orbit, so one might call
Eros the Queen (or King) of the NEOs.

Eric Watt Forste ++ arkuat@pobox.com ++ expectation foils perception -pcd