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M.T. Zuber (MIT), D.E. Smith (NASA/GSFC), A.F. Cheng (JHU/APL), J.B. Garvin (NASA Headquarters), NLR Science Team
The NEAR Laser Rangefinder, an instrument on the NEAR-Shoemaker spacecraft, has been mapping the detailed shape of asteroid 433 Eros since February 29, 2000. The instrument has a range resolution of 31 cm and a surface spot size that varies between 8 to 45 m (depending on orbital altitude), yielding along-track profiles that are often contiguous or overlapping. The NLR has so far provided over 7 million valid measurements of the range from the NEAR-Shoemaker spacecraft to the surface of 433 Eros, which are converted to mass-centered radii through solutions for the spacecraft orbit from Doppler tracking. The current spherical harmonic model, produced in a joint solution between altimetry and Doppler, is to degree and order 48 and is characterized by a spatial resolution of 470 m and a vertical accuracy of a few tens of meters. The shape model has an RMS misfit of 1000 ± 126 m to an ellipsoid, which represents a poor fit compared to other measured asteroids. Erosí complex shape was dominated by collisions but the asteroid shows no evidence of dumbbell-like structure suggestive of a contact binary bound loosely by self-gravitation. Clustered regions of high slopes on the walls of the two largest depressions represent evidence for structural competence. The offset between the asteroid's center of mass and center of figure can be explained by a density gradient of only 4.3 kg m-3 km-1. This minor deviation of internal structure from homogeneity is likely due to variations in mechanical competence (regolith distribution and variations in internal porosity) rather than composition. Regolith thicknesses of a few tens of meters are inferred from depths of topographic benches in craters. Impact crater morphology shows evidence of influence from both gravity and structural control. Small-scale topography reveals ridges and grooves likely generated by impact-related fracturing.