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IMAGE OF ASTEROID 253 Mathilde

This image mosaic of asteroid 253 Mathilde is constructed from four images acquired by the NEAR spacecraft on June 27, 1997.
mathilde1_s.jpg

Asteroid 253 Mathilde
June 27, 1997

This was taken from a distance of 2,400 km (1,500 miles). Sunlight is coming from the upper right. The part of the asteroid shown is about 59 by 47 km (36 by 29 miles) across. Details as small as 380 meters (1,250 feet) can be discerned. The surface exhibits many large craters, including the deeply shadowed one at the center, which is estimated to be more than 10 kilometers (6 miles) deep. The shadowed, wedge-shaped feature at the lower right is another large crater viewed obliquely. The angular shape of the upper left limb of the asteroid results from the rim of a third large crater viewed edge-on. The bright mountainous feature at the far left may be the rim of a fourth large crater emerging from the shadow. The angular shape is believed to result from a violent history of impacts.

This view of 253 Mathilde, taken from a distance of about 1,200 km (748 miles), was acquired shortly after the NEAR spacecraft's closest approach to the asteroid.
mathilde2_s.jpg

Asteroid 253 Mathilde
June 26, 1997

In this image, the asteroid has been rotated so that the illumination appears to come from the upper left. This portion of Mathilde shows numerous impact craters, ranging from over 30 km to less than 0.5 km (18.. 0.3 miles) in diameter. Raised crater rims suggest that some of the material ejected from these craters traveled only short distances before falling back to the surface; straight sections of some crater rims indicate the influence of large faults or fractures on crater formation. The number of craters as a function of size, and the number of each size within the visible area, are similar to values seen on asteroid 243 Ida, viewed by the Galileo spacecraft in 1993. A major difference between Ida and Mathilde appears to be the abundance of very large craters: Mathilde has at least 5 craters larger than 20 km in diameter on the roughly 60% of the body viewed during the encounter.

Two different views of asteroid 253 Mathilde were obtained by the NEAR spacecraft on June 27, 1997.
mathilde3_s.jpg

Asteroid 253 Mathilde
June 27, 1997

The image at left was obtained as the spacecraft approached Mathilde with its camera pointed near the direction of the Sun; only a few of the prominent ridges on Mathilde are illuminated. The visible area at left is 29 km (18 miles) high, and the phase angle (the angle from Sun-Mathilde- spacecraft) is 1360. As the spacecraft receded from Mathilde, it observed the asteroid (about 60 km or 38 miles across) almost fully lit by the Sun at a phase angle of 430 (right image). Mathilde's irregular shape results from a long history of severe collisions with smaller asteroids. The largest visible crater is 30 km (19 miles) in diameter.

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Mathilde, Gaspra, Ida
Comparison

These are views of the three asteroids that have been imaged at close range by spacecraft. The image of Mathilde (left) was taken by the NEAR spacecraft on June 27, 1997. Images of the asteroids Gaspra (middle) and Ida (right) were taken by the Galileo spacecraft in 1991 and 1993, respectively. All three objects are presented at the same scale. The visible part of Mathilde is 59 km wide x 47 km high (37 x 29 miles). Mathilde has more large craters than the other two asteroids. The relative brightness has been made similar for easy viewing; Mathilde is actually much darker than either Ida or Gaspra.

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