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The Eros asteroid is a near Earth asteroid of the S type variety. It is unique in being one of the few asteroids that actually crosses the orbit of Mars. The asteroid is named after Eros the God of love and the son of Mars and Venus in Greek and Roman mythology. The official name of the asteroid is 433 Eros Asteroid. The Eros asteroid is also the second largest found near Earth.
The Eros asteroid was first discovered August 13, 1898 by Carl Gustav Witt. The discovery of the asteroid was important because it was the first to be found near Earth. It was also one of the first asteroids to be used in an attempt to calculate the Sun’s parallax. The Eros asteroid is considered to be one of the most visible and largest asteroids near the Inner solar system.
Eros asteroid has dimensions of 34.4 by 11.2 by 11.2 km and a mean diameter of 16.84 km. The mass of the asteroid is 6.69 X 10^15 kg. Its orbit is 1.783 AU at aphelion and 1.133 AU at perihelion. The asteroid travels at an average speed of 24.36 km/s. The rotation period of the asteroid is 5 hours and 16 minutes.
The shape of Eros is similar to a peanut with two rounded ends and a saddle in the middle. This unique geometry gives the asteroid interesting characteristics. Since it is not a uniform sphere the asteroid’s surface gravity varies at different points depending on the distance to its center of gravity. This would make it a pretty disconcerting experience for an astronaut who would not only have to deal with its fluctuating gravity, but also the rapid period of rotation and smaller horizon.
Eros is just 0.179 AU from Earth and every 80 years its magnitude can reach as high +7.0 making it as bright as or brighter than Neptune in Earth’s night sky. In 2001 Eros became the first asteroid to be visited by a spacecraft and the first one upon which a soft landing was successfully completed. The asteroid was visited by NASA’s NEAR space craft. Its lander Shoemaker was the one that made a historic first successful landing.
Asteroid’s like Eros are now part of NASA’s long term mission planning as President Obama has stated that a new goal would be to have astronauts successfully land on an asteroid. An asteroid like Eros would be one of the prime targets due to its relative proximity and size.