On February 11, 2000 at 15:20 UT, the NEAR imager
recorded a most curious observation of Eros. It was late
afternoon of that day when I was pulled aside and asked
to ‘have a look at something’. That something turned out
to be the amazing heart-shaped feature that can be seen
in today’s image-of-the-day, which was taken at a
distance of 1609 miles (2590 km). This image has
undergone only our standard processing and has not been
retouched (except for the arrow drawn on it). The ‘heart
of Eros’ is actually a 5 km long depression in the
surface, and it appears as a heart because of an
accidental confluence of shadows. The same feature can
be discerned in the Eros images from December 1998 but
was not as well resolved at that time. It can be seen in
the image-of-the-day from December 23, 1998. In that
nine-frame montage, the first frame on the left in the
bottom row shows the feature clearly, about half way to
the upper end of Eros starting from the bright
saddle-shaped depression. The three earlier frames and
the next frame also show the feature. The saddle-shaped
depression may be the largest crater on Eros, but the
heart-shaped depression is basically mysterious at this
time. By April we should have a much clearer idea as to
what it is.

Andy Cheng

NEAR Project Scientist