The geology of 433 Eros

M. S. Robinson, P. C. Thomas, J. Veverka, S. L. Murchie, B. B. Wilcox

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

128 Scopus citations


The global high-resolution imaging of asteroid 433 Eros by the Near-Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR) Shoemaker spacecraft has made it possible to develop the first comprehensive picture of the geology of a small S-type asteroid. Eros displays a variety of surface features, and evidence of a substantial regolith. Large scale facets, grooves, and ridges indicate the presence of at least one global planar structure. Directional and superposition relations of smaller structural features suggest that fracturing has occurred throughout the object. As with other small objects, impact craters dominate the overall shape as well as the small-scale topography of Eros. Depth/diameter ratios of craters on Eros average ∼0.13, but the freshest craters approach lunar values of ∼0.2. Ejecta block production from craters is highly variable; the majority of large blocks appear to have originated from one 7.6 km crater (Shoemaker). The interior morphology of craters does not reveal the influence of discrete mechanical boundaries at depth in the manner of craters formed on lunar mare regolith and on some parts of Phobos. This lack of mechanical boundaries, and the abundant evidence of regolith in nearly every high-resolution image, suggests a gradation in the porosity and fracturing with depth. The density of small craters is deficient at sizes below ∼200 m relative to predicted slopes of empirical saturation. This characteristics, which is also found on parts of Phobos and lunar highland areas, probably results from the efficient obliteration of small craters on a body with significant topographic slopes and a thick regolith. Eros displays a variety of regolith features, such as debris aprons, fine-grained "ponded" deposits, talus cones, and bright and dark streamers on steep slopes indicative of efficient downslope movement of regolith. These processes serve to mix materials in the upper loose fragmental portion of the asteroid (regolith). In the instance of "ponded" materials and crater wall deposits, there is evidence of processes that segregate finer materials into discrete deposits. The NEAR observations have shown us that surface processes on small asteroids can be very complex and result in a wide variety of morphologic features and landforms that today seem exotic. Future missions to comets and asteroids will surely reveal still as yet unseen processes as well as give context to those discovered by the NEAR Shoemaker spacecraft.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1651-1684
Number of pages34
JournalMeteoritics and Planetary Science
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2002
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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