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NEAR Flyby of Asteroid Mathilde
News story originally written on July 3, 1997
On June 27, 1997, the NEAR spacecraft passed very close to the asteroid Mathilde. NEAR stands for Near Earth Asteroid Rendevous.
Mathilde is a large asteroid. Its diameter was estimated to be 60 km. That is about 600 football fields across! This makes it the most massive asteroid yet to be visited by a spacecraft.
Mathilde is also unique because it has an extremely long period of rotation. In fact, scientists have said that it hardly moves! It takes 17.5 days for Mathilde to rotate just once on its own axis.
The NEAR spacecraft has found five craters over 20 km across (or 200 football fields across) on the surface of Mathilde. No evidence of water has been found.
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