This view of the largest crater on Eros -- a mosaic of NEAR Shoemaker images taken Sept. 10, 2000, from an altitude of 62 miles (100 kilometers) - offers a new perspective on the feature known as Psyche. The images were taken as the spacecraft flew directly over the 3.3-mile (5.3 kilometer) wide crater and its smaller sister craters, which align its rim and create a paw-like appearance.
Providing additional clues to the history of Eros, the image shows several troughs and scarps that appear to cut through the crater. These structural features occurred after the crater was formed, perhaps resulting from a large impact elsewhere on the asteroid.
The low light coming from the right of the photo highlights the crater's raised rim. Bright patterns on the crater wall likely come from dark material moving downslope and revealing fresher material underneath. A large boulder perched on the crater wall illustrates Eros' unusual gravity; because of its elongated shape the gravity "lows" on Eros are not necessarily in the lowest parts of craters. In this section, the boulder seems to rest on the wall, instead of rolling down to the floor.
Built and managed by The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Maryland, NEAR was the first spacecraft launched in NASA's Discovery Program of low-cost, small-scale planetary missions. See the NEAR web page at http://near.jhuapl.edu/ for more details.