During NEAR Shoemaker's first look at Eros, in December 1998, the Sun was high in Eros' southern hemisphere, as it is now. One big difference between then and now is the spatial resolution of the images, which is much better now because the spacecraft is closer. This image was taken November 17, 2000, from a mapping orbit of 195 kilometers (121 miles). The part of the asteroid shown is in the southern hemisphere, at the eastern edge of the saddle region, which covers the bottom half of the picture. This part of the saddle is covered in boulders and patches of bright surface material. In the view from 1998 (inset) -- taken from more than 3,800 kilometers (2,400 miles) away, with the asteroid in a similar orientation -- only a large bright patch could be discerned.
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.