This image taken by NASA's NEAR Shoemaker on Apr. 17, 2000, shows the rocky, ridged, and rounded surface of asteroid Eros.

The images of Eros being returned by NEAR Shoemaker reveal a surprising diversity of interesting features. Many people's preconceptions of asteroids come from cinematic special effects that depict asteroids as little more than oversized tumbling rocks, perhaps tattered by strange, jagged landforms.

This image, taken April 17, 2000, from a distance of 101 kilometers (63 miles), suggests three words that could describe this asteroid: rocky, ridged, and rounded. The large boulder in the far left-center of the image measures more than 70 meters (230 feet) across. The ridge in the lower section of the frame is part of a feature that continues around a substantial part of the asteroid's middle. And although some of the small craters appear fresh and sharp, most of their rims have been rounded off by eons of relentless pounding by small, impacting meteors.

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.

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